Manistee Students Take Charge of Vaping Education

Students in one area school are taking the lead in talking about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.

The Manistee High School students are taking a bold stance in speaking out against something that many of their peers are doing.

Principal Andy Huber says The Manistee Chapter of SADD, or Students Against Destructive Decisions, put on a presentation on Monday night.

“We tasked them with getting the word out about vaping in our community and they just really stepped up,” Huber says.

Sophomore Taylor Murray, part of the SADD group, says they “wanted to bring a presentation to parents who may not be aware their kids are doing it.”

Senior Starr Koon says she sees it happening “All the time. Every day. People in the bathrooms, the classrooms. People are on school property outside or inside trying to vape as fast as they can. Trying to hide the smoke so they don’t get caught.”

Vaping is quick and easy.

Murray says students can just “take it out of your pocket, click the button, inhale it, put it back in your pocket and you’re done.”

And Koon adds, “Students are doing it so quick that by the time anybody looks it’s already gone.”

It happens so fast, and with little to no odor, it’s almost undetectable, even in the classroom while a teacher’s back is turned.

“They will smoke (vapor) it but then they’ll inhale the smoke,” Murray says. “That way the teachers don’t see what they’ve done.”

Sarah Garthe, with the Manistee Substance Education and Awareness Coalition, is glad these students are spreading the message.

“I think vaping was first advertised as a health benefit or as a smoking alternative, like we said to help get people to stop smoking,” Garthe says. “In actuality, we’re finding out it is extremely harmful.”

The SADD group has taken the initiative to study the dangers of vaping and pass along what they’ve learned to students.

“In all schools around the country, it’s just really growing and I really believe it’s about kids not understanding what they’re getting themselves into,” Huber says. “And really not understanding all the risks from vaping.”

Taylor Murray knows it’s an uphill battle.

“It’s really hard to change their minds now because I feel like a lot of them are already addicted to it,” Murray says. “They claim they’re not, they claim they don’t have the nicotine in it, but they really don’t actually know it’s inside of it and most of them do have the nicotine inside of it.”

The students agree parents are another huge audience that need to hear the message.

“Students think it’s harmless and so do their parents,” Koon says. “Most of the time they think it’s an alternative to smoking cigarettes, or safer than smoking cigarettes, and both of those claims are also false.”

Garthe adds that in a vaping pen, “you can smoke the flavors, you can smoke nicotine mixed with flavors, or you can put in marijuana concentrate and smoke that as well.”

And students say that’s exactly what’s happening all around them.

A countywide effort to spread the word is underway, with students carrying the message.

“If we’re going to do a youth substance prevention program, we need you to lead that program,” Garthe says. “If you can reach out to other youth and we can use them to help educate others, that’s the best way. It’s going to make a huge difference.”

You can find more resources about vaping and how to talk to your kids about it at e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov. Or at talksooner.org and escapethevape.org.