December 21, 2018

Seventh grade students speak to legislators about the dangers of vaping

By Matt Pascarella

Each year, Eliza Adam’s seventh grade health class advocates for a topic to make the community healthier. This year, the students did research on the dangers of vaping and wrote letters expressing their concerns to President Trump, Governor Paul LePage and Senator Bill Diamond.

Students present their concerns to local leaders
On Wednesday, December 12, the students got to address several individuals in a discussion panel that included:  Senator Diamond, Representative Patrick Corey, Becky Smith from the American Heart Association, Nicole Heanssler from the American Cancer Society and Windham Town Council member, David Nadeau. High school student representatives from the Be the Influence Coalition were also in attendance. The forum took place at the Windham Middle School Library.

Adams described vaping as “a freight train coming right at our kids.” A number of students from Adams’s class each gave a fact about vaping they had learned in the course of their research. The panel asked who in the crowd of students knew someone who vaped and just about everyone raised their hands.

According to students’ research, vaping is one of the most addictive drugs and teens become addicted faster than adults. One of the most startling aspects of vaping is that there are no rules for listing ingredients. Romaine lettuce killed one person and it got heavily scrutinized; vaping kills nearly half a million people each year and it doesn’t receive the same scrutinization. The amount of teens vaping has gone up 75% in the last year.

After the students presented the panel with the facts, the panel asked questions of students. Some questions asked included what should be done to prevent vaping. Students stated that more education about this activity should be available, both for classes and for individuals who are aware they have a problem. Students also thought spreading the word about vaping’s dangers is important.

Officer Matt Cyr, who leads the Dare to Adventure Program, identified vaping as an unfortunate fad that has reached a level where some students don’t want to use the restroom due to people vaping in it.

Senator Diamond was very impressed by the work done and wanted these students to know that their concerns were being heard. “These kids had done a lot of research and that really impressed me, and I want to do whatever I can to help,” Diamond said. “We have a deadline for new legislation which is the 31st of December, so this is ideal. If these students, one of them or some of them or all of them want me to put in legislation, I’ll do it. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity and I hope they take advantage of it.”

“It’s important for us, as young people, to have a voice in the community; to start making people realize that vaping is a bad thing to do and it’s really important for kids my age to start realizing they do have a voice and they can be heard if they want to,” said Ava Collins, a member of Adams’ class.
“This group of students are now spokespeople to anyone they speak with about vaping,” explained Adams. “From now on, these students can speak up in a way that’s highly educated. This sets them aside as leaders. Having these adults come in to listen to them and honor what they’ve learned...really gels that leadership role for the students.”

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