When Fadumo* gave her dad the smoke-free starter kit, asking him to stop smoking, he was surprised: “I gave my dad the kit and at first he laughed. Then he read my note and he smiled and said he will try. That meant a lot to me because at least he will try to stop smoke smoking now. My mom was there too and she thought what I did was really nice. “
A few weeks ago, WellShare’s youth program The Young Achievers (TYA) spent their time in class preparing for the Great American Smoke-Out. This annual event organized by the American Cancer Society marks the opportunity for current smokers to start a healthier, smoke-free life. Nearly 38 million Americans smoke cigarettes. While the cigarette smoking rate has declined significantly, it is still the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the world. Smoking leads to more deaths than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns, and illegal drugs combined.
For this year’s Great American Smoke-Out, WellShare’s TYA participants prepared smoke-free starter kits containing stress-balls, water bottles, sugar-free mint dispensers and information material on the harms of tobacco. The youth distributed the kits to relatives and friends, hoping to encourage them to think about quitting tobacco. As a personal touch, they each wrote a personal note to the recipient of the smoke-free kit, urging them to consider quitting tobacco. Mo* who is worried about the health of his best friend, wrote: “Dear Bishar*, I encourage you to not smoke Hookah anymore, because it is really not good for your health and I want you to be my life-long best friend!”
While the youth focused on encouraging friends and family to quit using tobacco, they’ve also been learning about e-cigarettes. Youth cigarette smoking has reached an all-time low, but more and more young people are now using e-cigarettes like JUUL, and other vaping devices. According to the 2017 Minnesota Youth tobacco survey, one in five high school students in Minnesota use e-cigarettes, a nearly 50 percent increase since 2014. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm brain development as teens grow. The JUUL contains nearly double the concentration of nicotine found in other e-cigarette brands. A single JUUL pod, the disposable compartment that holds the liquid e-juice, is equivalent to 1-2 packs of cigarettes depending on the cigarette brand. A pack of cigarettes may have around 20-25 mg while JUUL has 59mg/ml or around 45 mg per pod. Many young people are completely unaware that JUUL products have nicotine in them.
*name changed for privacy reasons