UW-Madison Extension Lincoln County helps launch vaping education program
The Healthy Minds for Lincoln County coalition is raising awareness about vaping among youth in our communities by providing tools for parents, teachers and youth.
A 2018 student survey showed vaping by teens in Lincoln County was above the state and national averages. Several deaths and hundreds of cases of severe illness across the country have raised new questions and increased the demand for objective information about the risks of vaping.
“We have started to raise awareness in our communities through several efforts,” said Debbie Moellendorf, who works in the areas of positive youth development and health and well-being as an educator with UW-Madison Extension Lincoln County.
Thanks to local financial support from Ascension Good Samaritan Hospital, Merrill United Way and the Optimist Club of Merrill, the Healthy Minds coalition collaborated with Extension, Murray and Associates and the Lincoln County Health Department to raise the billboard on Center Avenue in Merrill to encourage parents to talk with their children about vaping. Moellendorf coordinated efforts with the Merrill and Tomahawk School Districts and Merrill and Tomahawk Police Departments to show parents a mock-teen bedroom stocked with commonly used items for vaping. The coalition also provides resources for parents and teachers including conversation starters for talking to teens about the risks of vaping.
While most youth do not vape, there are potentially severe health impacts for those who do. The most widely purchased e-cigarette is especially popular among youth because of the kid-friendly flavors. Though less expensive and less harsh tasting than cigarettes, the nicotine is highly addictive and can have lasting effects on adolescent brain development. Young people involved on the social norms committees at both Merrill and Tomahawk middle and high schools are creating messages on posters posted throughout the school and inside fortune cookies to educate their peers about the health impacts of vaping.
“Our goal is to provide information and resources and to partner with our schools to educate students parents/guardians and staff to support our young people in making the healthier choice not to vape and to support youth who do in quitting,” Moellendorf said. “We are currently piloting an educational program for students who are found to have vaping devices as an alternative to suspension through funding provided by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families through Lincoln County Social Services Youth Justice Collaborative Committee Grant.”
As vaping becomes more prevalent, the impacts on health will also become better understood. For more information, including steps for breaking the vaping habit, contact your UW-Madison Extension Lincoln County office at 715-539-1077 or the Lincoln County Health Department at 715-536-0307.