Escape the Vape: Teaching youth about the dangers of smoking (2019)

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The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that the United States, between 2017 and 2018, has experienced an almost 100% increase in the number of high school aged students who report using vape products within the past month—an increase from 11% to 21%. Studies also report that the high school past month use rate has increased to 25% and that eighth grade past month use also has almost doubled (from 3.5% to 6.1%) in 2019. Eighty percent of youth now believe that e-cigarettes do not cause great risk of harm. 

Many adults are still not aware of the e-cigarette industry, products and problem of youth access. In a 2017 article, the Child Mind Institute explains the challenge clearly: “JUUL, a popular vape device that comes in fun flavors, looks like a flash drive and can be charged in a USB port, is especially concerning. JUUL delivers high levels of nicotine, making the product extremely addictive. The company that makes and markets JUUL recently exceeded a $10 billion valuation faster than any company, including Facebook.”


At the end of 2018, Delaware 4-H obtained a 6-month mini grant from the American Lung Association. This mini-grant provided funds for staff to research the topic, develop training materials, purchase educational videos and facilitate 45 to 60-minute sessions with youth and adults. The sessions aim to increase awareness of youth e-cigarette use and educate both youth and adults on the severity of health issues associated with these products. Previously they were believed to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes. 

From January to December 2019, Delaware 4-H reached 601 youth and 272 adults with these sessions. Initially led only by Extension Educators, they are now led by teens and volunteers across the state and region.



Post-training results:

  • 86% of participants reported “definitely yes” and 10% “probably yes” that young people risk harming themselves if they smoke from 1-5 cigarettes per day. 

  • 72% of participants reported “definitely yes” and 24% “probably yes” that young people risk harming themselves if they vape 1-5 times per day. 

  • 96% of participants reported that vapes are not safe just because they produce only steam or water vapor. 

  • 97% of participants reported that there is not any type of cigarette, vape or other tobacco product that is safe to use. 

  • 52% of participants reported “definitely yes” and 25% reported “probably yes”, that they would share the information about the health risks of vaping/e-cigarettes learned today with others.  



This effort was supplemented by a mini-grant from the Delaware American Lung Foundation (ALA) managed by Tanny Dickerson.