Youth vaping has reached epidemic proportions nationally and Maui County is no exception. In fact, we have much higher youth use rates than the national average, with 32.3 percent of our high school students actively vaping and 18.3 percent of our middle school kids using according to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

On the bright side, our community is aware of the problem and most want to do something about it. While it feels like we are scrambling to catch up with the increase in youth use, we are lucky to have some wonderful tools and resources available to help educate our young people, parents, and educators.

The Maui, Molokai, Lana‘i Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i (Coalition) first developed a Maui County Youth Vaping Presentation four years ago when a health education teacher at King Kekaulike High realized his students were beginning to experiment with vapor products. He asked for the Coalition to guest speak to his class on the subject every semester thereafter. The Baldwin High School Peer Education Program helped to further expand the presentation by creating their own version to reach their fellow students. The presentation has been adapted, updated, and expanded a number of times over the years as new data has been released about vaping and as trends have changed in product popularity.

The beginning of 2019 saw an increase in the number of requests received by the Maui, Molokai, Lana‘i Coalition for youth vaping education, due to the dramatic increase in youth use and the sudden widespread use of the newer pod systems. The Coalition’s goal has been to move away from these kinds of direct service requests and instead to “train the trainer” to help create more sustainability in youth vaping education across the county. With the newest version of the presentation completed early this year, we agreed to guest speak only if the school or group would also agree to let us train their own on-site staff so that they would have a go-to source in the future to provide the education. The presentation and supplementary training was given to a number of schools and organizations across the County, from Molokai’s Alu Like youth leadership program to the West Side’s Maui Preparatory Academy and prevention providers in Hana.

Serendipitously, the Department of Health offered a “training of trainers” in April on the Stanford Tobacco Prevention Toolkit, a goldmine of educational materials and curriculum developed by Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, Ph.D. and her team at Stanford University, including a six-unit series on vaping and electronic smoking devices. The toolkit can be adapted and used in any number of ways, from a 20-minute parent presentation to a 10-course classroom series. The toolkit includes detailed PowerPoint presentations aimed at teens and adults, as well as interactive elements and activities that can be used with younger students as well. The best part is that the Stanford team updates the toolkit with new data as it is published, which takes a huge burden off the county coordinators to try to keep up with the influx of new information.

The training was offered to educators and administrators within the Department of Education, as well as the county Coalition coordinators, in an effort to help integrate the toolkit into our schools and offer a more standardized and incredibly rich resource. The Maui, Molokai, Lana‘i Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i is currently transitioning to a “training of trainers” on how to utilize the Stanford Toolkit, supplemented with local data slides and resources, to replace our previous presentation and training.

With everyone on the same page, disseminating the same wealth of information, it is our hope that more Hawai‘i State and Maui County students, parents, and educators will be reached than ever before. If our community is well educated on the detrimental impact that vaping has on our young people, we may rise up even stronger in the next legislative session to do something about it.

For more information on the Maui, Molokai, and Lana‘i Tobacco Coalition, please contact Katie Folio at Katie@hiphi.org.