Escape the Vape is not a new program. It started last July but with a new $53,000 grant from the Idaho Office of Drug Policy the members of the program are now visiting schools all across the upper valley. "We've set it up as a peer-to-peer campaig," said Scott Martin, a principle investigator on the grant. "We were most interested in considering some of the evidence based practices to try to get involved with prevention research. The target audience we are trying to reach is adolescence. Teenagers don't care so much about what people of our age and demographic really have to say. However, there is a lot of evidence to suggest they are more willing to hear what their peers have to say."
Scott Martin along with Tiffany Jensen, the founder of the program, believe the message about the risks of e-cigarettes and vaping needs to be heard. "For us, I think it's introducing what vaping is," Jensen said. "Most people really haven't come across it because it's so new. We've seen it but to a lot of families it's not on their radar. It's still nicotine. It's still addictive. There are harms in these chemicals. It was a very lopsided story so this is our opportunity to tell the other side."
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that currently e-cigarettes and their ingredients are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. So there's no way to know for sure what is in them or how much nicotine they contain. "Youth generally tend to believe that there is no problem with vaping," Martin said. "If there was a problem, people would be telling us about it. It is still so new there is not a lot of information and public awareness."
Martin and Jensen also say that based on their research kids in the region reflect the same views that others in the nation feel that vaping is not so bad.
"Those were the messages that youth were gravitating too," Jensen said. "This is a safer way to smoke. It's water vapor. There's no second hand smoke, no yellow teeth, no smelly hair. It's not as bad and therefore it's ok. But are things really nicotine free? No not really. Some have some amounts of nicotine or even high amounts of nicotine."
To add to that fact, the CDC says research shows nicotine from e-cigarettes is absorbed not only by users but also people around them who are not smoking. Even though they talk about this information to kids, Jensen says she and others with the program always keeps in mind the sensitivity of the issue. "Some of the things that we know are inevitable with a project like this is whenever you get into someone's health behaviors it gets very personal to talk about," Jensen said. "We know that people we talk to may have people they know who are active smokers or actively vape. We are not here to insult their choices. That's not our mission. We are here to promote healthy choices."
For more information on the program "Escape the Vape" and to learn more about the health risks of vaping just go online to their website itsmyfuture.org.