PORTAGE — An estimated 11,100 people will die this year in Indiana from tobacco-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some young Hoosiers think it’s time to cut those numbers, especially among their peers.
Young people gathered at Founders Square Park on Friday to speak out against the tobacco industry and its marketing practices on Take Down Tobacco Day, a national day of action.
Among the attendees were eighth-graders from Willowcreek Middle School, including 14-year-old Francisco Torres, who admitted to having previously vaped or used an e-cigarette, a smoking device designed to simulate the sensation of smoking.
“A lot of my friends were doing it, so I did it, thinking it would be cool,” Torres said. “It wasn’t. It was mean. It was weird. It affected me the next day in football practice.
Classmate Lucian Logan, 14, added that many students smoke and vape. “You see them smoking in the bathroom,” he said. “Then they turned it off.”
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Launched by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Take Down Tobacco Day invites community members to come together for events that raise awareness of the problem of tobacco use at the local level, encourage young people to reject the big marketing of tobacco and stay tobacco-free.
Emily Carpenter, youth leader and outreach specialist for the Porter County Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition, said the intent of this first Take Down Tobacco was “to educate the community about the dangers of smoking and vaping and helping children help each other. free lives.
Big tobacco marketing targets young people, Carpenter said, promoting vaping as a safe alternative. However, Carpenter warned, vaping isn’t flavored water; instead, it contains aerosols and nicotine and can harm brain development in young people.
On the positive side, Carpenter noted, underage smoking is down 86% since 2016, but has been replaced by vaping. According to QuitNowIndiana, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among young Hoosiers.
Carrie Higgins, the coalition’s program director, pointed out that all tobacco products, including vaping, are illegal for anyone under the age of 21. One challenge, she noted, is adults providing kids with vaping supplies. Another issue is that vaping supplies are readily available online for anyone, regardless of age.
“The worst part,” Higgins said, “is that nicotine affects brain development up to age 25.”
If young people can stay away from tobacco products in the 18-25 age group, she said, it reduces the risk of them becoming smokers or nicotine users.
Representatives of VOICE Porter County, a group that engages youth in promoting tobacco-free living, joined the coalition. Lauren Jeffries, 17, and Caden Harretos, 16, students from Boone Grove High School, manned the Porter County VOICE booth, testing attendees’ knowledge of tobacco products.
“We want to educate our fellow teens,” Jeffries said. “It’s nice to have a voice in the community.”
Harretos added, “A lot of our peers are adult educated, but that could mean more if it comes from one of us.”
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