On November 15, Kaua‘i hosted an amazing half-day conference to address the vaping epidemic that faces our youth and young adults. We know that youth are using vaping products at an alarming rate nationwide, but the numbers are among the highest here in Hawai‘i. On Kaua‘i, 45.3 percent of high school students and 27.6 percent of middle school students reported ever using electronic vapor products (Hawai‘i 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey).

These electronic vaping products have only been around for about 10 years, making it difficult to assess the long-term impact of the products and their use. Only recently have the CDC and the Journal of Pediatrics, among other reputable sources, released data on the science and health effects of vaping on the body. With so little known about the health risks and with such a surge in youth use, Kaua‘i Rural Health Association and Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i decided to partner to bring the most current and relevant information on the youth vaping epidemic to the Kaua‘i community.

Kauai ESD Conference

Panel discussion at Kauai’s 2018 ESD Conference.

There were four featured speakers at the Kaua‘i Youth Vaping conference: Forrest Batz (consulting pharmacist), Dr. Diana Felton (Hawai‘i State Department of Health Toxicologist), Kevin Ramirez ( HIPHI Youth ESD Prevention Project Coordinator), and Trish La Chica (HIPHI Policy and Advocacy Director.) Other speakers included Dr. Janet Berreman (Kaua‘i District Health Officer), Valerie Saiki (Kaua‘i Community Coordinator for the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i), and Keilyn Paleracio (member of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i’s Youth Council and a Kapa‘a High School Senior).

Ninety-one participants attended the conference, including middle and high school students from Kaua‘i public and charter schools, Kaua‘i Community College students and faculty, parents, teachers, Kaua‘i Police Department, elected officials, and numerous community organizations and individuals.

Presentations included information on the health hazards of vape products, nicotine’s effects on the human body, marketing tactics of the tobacco industry, up-to-date information on ESD policy and law, next steps in tobacco-control, and a brief update on tobacco cessation services in the Kaua‘i community.

The conference received some very positive feedback. Nancy Borilez, a parent, wrote: “Thank you very much. Well thought out and balanced conference. Each presenter added value to the discussion. So much we do not know, but what is known needs to be shared with our youth, parents, community.”