By KAIA DEAN
Paula DiGregory, a tobacco prevention and support specialist working in Crawford and Venango Counties, visited Cranberry High School on Oct. 2-3 to present a program on vaping to students. DiGregory also works with the Crawford Health Improvement Coalition/Tobacco Free NWPA.
DiGregory speaks out against the rising number of vaping teens. E-cigarette or vape usage has recently been deemed an epidemic. Information from the State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup states, “one in fifteen PA middle school students vaped at least once, and one in four high school students have vaped at least once.”
When asked what has inspired her eight years of outreach, DiGregory responded, “I have kids, and I want them to be able to make informed decisions.”
DiGregory is a liaison for TRU, also known as the Tobacco Resistance Unit of Pennsylvania, who works on educating youths from ages 12 to 18, and has a final goal for Pennsylvania’s youths to be nicotine and tobacco free.
In reference to the popularity of Juuls and other vapes, DiGregory said, “It came really quickly, it came really fast, it swept in.”
Organizations like the CDC and the Pennsylvania Board of Health were alarmed when these e-cigarettes took to the market at a rising pace, catching on to youth and adults all over the world.
“Not only did they not think of it as a cigarette, they didn’t think of it as an e-cigarette,” said DiGregory, when explaining the misinformation of people using Juuls.
In order to illustrate how advertisements for vaping have worked, DiGregory said, “The marketing draws the horse to the water, the flavor gets the horse to drink, and the nicotine keeps it coming back.”
In the beginning, flavors like Sour Patch Kid or grape juice were a large part of targeting youths. Advertising that claims vaping is safer than smoking, targets adults looking to quit smoking, or kids trying to fit in, but these same kids and adults have been fueling an addiction.
DiGregory simply stated, “Is it safer to jump out of the thirteenth floor of a building than it is to jump out of the twentieth? Why can’t we all just take the stairs out together?”
Digregory informed the students that about the thirty-one chemicals contained in vapes, including formaldehyde, a chemical used to preserve dead bodies, and diacetyl.
“When a person inhales, the battery ignites and the liquid turns into an aerosol vapor,” DiGregory told students.
The basic definition of an aerosol is the word projectile, which is exactly what these vapes do. “The matter is so light and so fine that it will lodge itself deeper in the lungs and causes damage,” says DiGregory. The effect of this deeper projection is similar to that of blacklung found in miners.
As a final statement, DiGregory told the students, “Just because it’s safer does not mean that it is safe.”
Final advice: be informed and make good choices.
Watch the interview
Kaia Dean, Joe Gunn and Logan Johnson are students at Cranberry High School and members of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.