Over the past several months, youth on Hawaiʻi Island have influenced their peers to Drop the Vape and educate others about the harmful effect of vaping.  On May 10, 2021, Keaau High School hosted a lunch event, which featured local educator and professional entertainer, Ryan Hiraoka, to Drop the Vape (into an amnesty bin overseen by administrators) and sign up for the Healthy Futures vaping intervention program from the Stanford Tobacco Prevention Toolkit.

The purpose of the event was to promote a healthy lifestyle for all, especially students, and to keep the conversation going on the dangers of e-cigarette use. The Drop the Vape event provided information on vaping, an opportunity to surrender devices, and encouraged healthy replacement activities such as listening to music with friends.  Students were able to ask questions and sign up for Healthy Futures to learn more and empower them to support their peers. Keaau High’s Health Occupations class promoted and led the Drop the Vape event which saw 21 students Drop the Vape, receiving 808NOVAPE t-shirts, masks, and other resources such as the Hawaiʻi Tobacco Quitline information to help them create a vape-free life.

Students from East and North Hawaiʻi high schools gathered virtually through a youth internship program, the Dragon Den, a student internship program at Kō Education Center in Honokaʻa.  High school students from Kohala High, Honokaʻa High, Kanu ʻĀina and Laupāhoehoe Charter School met virtually over a few months and were “hired” by the Hamakua Health Center (the client) to create promotional materials.  The client requested a variety of media content to inform youth about the harmful effects of vaping (posters, radio, and social media), to be shared island and statewide. Most of the students focused on creating posters, which were shared with Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Island coalition members and the state of Hawaiʻi Department of Health, Tobacco Prevention, and Control Section.

According to Kai Gaycayan, Tobacco Treatment Specialist for HCC and mentor to the Dragon Den, “Throughout their “employment” at the Dragon Den internship program, we met with them at the start of the project and halfway through to give feedback on their drafts, and concluded our mentoring when we met for their final presentation.  The students who participated benefited greatly with job interview tips, how to dress professionally as well as real-life scenarios with meeting with clients.  We were and are very grateful for all of their hard work, creativity, and willingness to spread the word on the youth vaping epidemic.  They were all very proud of their work.”

Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Island Coalition looks forward to engaging with more youth over the summer through teen summer fun presentations and when in-person schooling returns in August.  What could be more inspiring than peers helping peers move towards healthy lifestyle choices and feel supported to Drop the Vape and live a tobacco-free life?  For more information about youth tobacco and vape prevention, please contact Sally Ancheta, sally@hiphi.org or Lisa DeSantis, lisa@hiphi.org, Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Island Coordinators.