By Laurie Herrick, Preventionist
Wellspring Center for Prevention and the Coalition for Healthy Communities support youth peer-to-peer prevention messaging in many ways. One way is through our "Don't Get Vaped In" Creative Expression contest. Students in grades 6, 7 and 8 throughout Middlesex County are invited to interpret their idea of our contest theme. The submitted work can be an essay, a poem or a drawing. We received over 100 entries this past year and were impressed by the creativity and effort put forth by the participants.
In the past, our contest had focused on the misuse of prescription and over the counter medicine by young adults. However, we heard from middle school and high school students the need to receive further education on vaping and its harmful effects.
Electronic cigarettes and vaping products have been growing in popularity over the past few years, and we know there has been a rise in the number of students that are vaping. The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed an increase in vaping among middle and high school students, with over 3.6 million kids stating they used e-cigarettes at least once in the past 30 days.
Many e-cigarette companies market their products to youth. Through advertisements and attractive flavorings, such as cotton candy or cherry, e-cigarette companies know what will make young adults want to try their products. Adolescent brains are still developing, and early nicotine exposure can change how the brain works. As preventionists and educators, the best thing we can do is provide students with all the knowledge we have regarding things, such as vaping, that can be harmful to them.
Our most recent 6th grade winners were 1st Place Saanvi Karthik (Edgar Middle School), 2nd Place Mayurika Bera (Crossroads South Middle School) and 3rd Place Srivatsan Tirucherai (Crossroads South Middle School).
All 7th grade winners were Wardlaw Hartridge students. They are 1st Place Kayla Le, 2nd Place Michael Howell and 3rd Place Thomas O'Connor.
The 8th grade winners were 1st Place Mahi Aneja (Crossroads South Middle School), 2nd Place Mai Nguyen (Edgar Middle School) and 3rd place Arushi Tripathi (Woodrow Wilson).
Covid-19 changed our plans for an award dinner, but winners received a gift card and gift bags that were personally delivered.