Westfield launches new program to intercede before kids start vaping

In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

WESTFIELD, Ind. (WTHR) - It's called "Safer Does Not Equal Safe" - a new program designed to intercede before kids start vaping or need help to quit.

2,600 high school students in Westfield took part in the program Friday. Westfield High School held four assemblies to address the dangers of vaping.

"Now raise your hand if the first time you saw JUUL was at school," IUPUI senior Maria Duenas, who served as moderator, asked the crowd.

The overwhelming majority of sophomores first encountered the sleek, lightweight device you can hold in the palm of your hand at school.

"I've seen it before, but I did not know so many more kids than adults are doing it and a lot did not know it contained nicotine," sophomore Ben Ice said.

JUUL, which currently commands 75 percent of the e-cigarette market, charges by plugging it into a computer USB port.

"Sixty-three percent of the middle and high school students don't know JUUL had nicotine in it every time. Give me a flavor," the moderator asked the crowd.

"Cucumber, cotton candy, mango," three students answered.

Recent deaths related to e-cigarettes here in Indiana, California and Minnesota have resulted in the administration considering taking action against the more than 15,500 flavored brands designed to attract the younger market.

"Probably, at least in the teen population, seven out of 10 do it," sophomore Aadon Wiley shared.

Sponsored by Breathe Easy Indiana and the Truth Initiative, the convocation was moderated by two youth community leaders.

"So many kids have this problem. It's really hard to get over it," sophomore Brette Hanaban said.

"I think with kids that hits home because they actually are realizing it can effect you. Most kids don't think it can effect them at all," Halle London, another sophomore in the 8:30 a.m. assembly, said.

The goal with this peer-to-peer program is to prevent them from starting.

The hope is it's not too late.