Written by: Melisa Damcevska, Preventionist I
As the use of traditional cigarettes has dropped, the popularity of electronic cigarettes has skyrocketed.
According to the CDC in 2018, almost 1 in 20 middle school students (4.9%) and 1 in 5 high school students (20.8%) reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. The CDC also reports that recent increases in e-cigarette use has contributed to an increase in overall use of tobacco products among youth.
Youth who begin using tobacco products have a greater likelihood for developing a nicotine dependence, as the brain is still developing until the age of 25. The targeted marketing e-cigarette companies use, similar to the methods previously used by Big Tobacco companies, make the products more appealing and contribute to the epidemic numbers we see today.
As the rates of e-cigarette and tobacco use among youth reach epidemic proportions, the New Jersey Prevention Network (NJPN), along with the Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey, has partnered with County Prevention Agencies to create Youth Tobacco Action Group (YTAGs) in schools and communities across the state.
South Brunswick High School in Middlesex County has one such group, where students work together with their peers, as well as youth across Middlesex County and the state, to raise awareness and educate about the risks of e-cigarette use.
The YTAG group in South Brunswick High School held their first official meeting on Monday, April 15th and created vision boards for their goals of what they would like to accomplish by participating in the YTAG group. The student-led initiative gives students the opportunity to showcase their leadership, artistic or writing skills and collaborative with their peer, both in school and across the state. By creating vision boards, students at South Brunswick were given the chance to show exactly what they wanted to achieve and that the power to make a change for their generation’s future health and happiness in within their control.