Minot students take on Big Vape

Charles Crane/MDN From left to right, Minot High School-Central Campus students Ai Yasumura and Caelin Flaten look on while one of their classmates takes a turn spinning a wheel of questions at their booth during a national day of action against teen nicotine use.

Since e-cigs first debuted on the market about a decade ago, this nicotine delivery method has seen widespread adoption by Americans of all generations. In particular with those who are not old enough to purchase them. According to the results of the latest polling performed by the Food and Drug Administration, approximately 2.5 million middle and high school students around the country report that they used e-cig or vaping tobacco products.

In the Magic City, students in area middle and high schools are stepping up to encourage their peers to set their vapes aside. The three musketeers leading the charge at Minot’s Central Campus are sophomore students Caelin Flaten, Ai Yasumura and Connor Shaw, members of a new tobacco cessation group collaborating with the First District Health Unit.

Similar organizations and efforts were organized at Jim Hill and Ramstad middle schools as well on Friday, joining a nationwide movement hoping to raise awareness to adverse health effects, crying foul at the advertising and marketing of tobacco and cannabis vaping products. Based on what he’s seen, Central Campus Dean of Students Gabe Rauschenberger says things have come a long way from Joe the Camel.

“Vapes are so easy to conceal. Now we have flavors like cotton candy, green apple, cherry. Now that might not be something you or I would be interested in, but it definitely appeals to youth,” Rauschenberger said, “It’s very pervasive. We hear that there’s a high percentage of students have access to it, and not all of them are doing it at school. We have students that do, and its too many. But we do have students here that really feel strongly that it’s a problem that they want to tackle.”

With support from the organization Take Down Tobacco, which is affiliated with the American Lung Association, the students spent the day engaging with other Central Campus students regarding healthcare concerns, addiction and possible long-term effects. Students were challenged to sign their names to a pledge to quit vaping, which gave them a chance at a spin of a wheel of trivia and questions about the toll of e-cig use.

“They’re all working together with students trying to educate them and get the word out. Students’ groups dropped a bit after COVID, so we picked it back up here in the fall of this year. We’re trying to equip these kids and keep the charge going and hopefully make a difference,” Rauschenberger said, “It’s an illegal activity happening in our schools. They have vaporless vapes now, so you can’t tell when kids are doing it or how they’re doing it.”

Flaten, Yasumura and Shaw have even taken the time to go to Bismarck to meet with legislators on the issue, one of whom echoed frustrations Rauschenberger has heard from local parents, as many have no idea their child is vaping at all. What administrators have found is that a covert culture has developed amongst some students who vape where one will hold onto the device while another carries the cartridge or pod until they have a chance to sneak away for a few puffs.

“It’s really evolved. We’re dealing with technology changing and the ramifications of it culturally,” Rauschenberger said, “We’ve got a lot of older students and a lot of them are signing our poster here saying they’ll phase this out, and that big tobacco is pushing this onto students duping kids into thinking this isn’t going to hurt them. That’s really the bottom line.”

The larger aim of the movement is to call on local, state and federal lawmakers to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, which are preferred by youth tobacco users 80% of the time, according to Take Down Tobacco.

“This isn’t just something happening nationally. It’s really in the community and in the schools,” Rauschenberger said, “We’re being a little reactive, but we’re trying to be a little proactive to give us time to deal with what they’ve got coming down the pipe.”

(If you have an education story idea, please email news@minotdailynews.com.)


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