EagleHerald/Wes Beyer
Robb Holladay explains the dangers and risks of vaping Monday at UW-Green Bay - Marinette Campus.
EagleHerald/Wes Beyer

Robb Holladay explains the dangers and risks of vaping Monday at UW-Green Bay - Marinette Campus.

MARINETTE — The Healthy Youth Coalition and Communities that Care held their “Let’s Talk: Vaping and Other Gateway Drugs” event Monday at UW-Green Bay - Marinette Campus, which featured Robb Holladay, an internationally recognized youth motivational speaker, as the keynote speaker. Holladay held an assembly at Peshtigo High School earlier Monday where he talked about the risks associated with vaping and e-cigarettes with the students. This event also featured a panel discussion with health specialists, law enforcement, parents, those recovering from addiction and local students.

Before Holladay took the stage, Stephanie Nault, a health and well-being educator with UW-Extension, discussed statistics related to vaping among youth in the Marinette-Menominee area. She said the local HYC started a youth survey in 2005 for Marinette and Menominee county school districts that reaches students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades and measures problem behaviors and risk and protective factors. “These results are quite alarming. Our eighth grade students — students who aren’t even driving yet — locally, we’re double the national average for current (vaping) use,” she said.

She said the survey also found that over 50% of area high school seniors have tried e-cigarettes, and the current use among them is double the national average.

“We’re learning that the age of first use keeps getting lower and lower. Right now, we’re having kids starting at the age of 10 and younger,” she said.

During his talk, Holladay said the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recognized vaping as an epidemic among the nation’s youth. He said the whole issue of vaping came as a result of what he called the “cobra effect,” which he said happens when something started for a good purpose has the exact opposite result of what was intended. He said the inventor of e-cigarettes, pharmacist Han Li, invented the e-cigarette as an alternative to smoking, but this had unintended consequences. “If you try to quit smoking by vaping, you are seven times less likely to be able to quit. The reason why is the nicotine that is in these e-juices is three times more potent, way more powerful; they wind up hitting that device more times than they would smoke,” he said.

Holladay said many of the students he’s talked to have told him that their friends who vape, or they themselves in the cases where the students tell him about their own struggles, were never smokers to begin with and are now unable to stop vaping. He said about 60% of students who vape go on to start smoking within six months of starting to vape.

Holladay said in his time traveling around the country talking to students, he’s had students tell him that they can’t use the bathrooms at school without being exposed to someone vaping. He also said 39 teens have died lately, and over 2,000 have been hospitalized, due to health complications caused by vaping.

He said the most popular e-cigarette right now is Juul, which makes vape pens that resemble a flash drive. He said the Juul pods, which hold the liquid that is heated and inhaled in aerosol form, contains as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes. “Today at the high school, I asked the students ‘How many of you have a friend that does one pod a day?’ They all raised their hands. ‘How many has a friend that does two?’ I got up to six pods; one of them has a friend that does six pods a day. That’s six packs of cigarettes worth of nicotine that these students are getting. Some kids were doing it right in class,” he said.

He said the chemicals used in vaping aren’t just restricted to the vaping juices that are out there. He said some have used THC oils in their vape pens.

Holladay said he is a retired X-ray technician, and showed x-rays of the lungs of students who had been vaping as a part of the presentation, showing the damage that vaping can do to the lungs.

After the talk, Nault said Communities that Care will be hosting a planning meeting at the Menominee DAR Boys & Girls Club Dec. 16 at 5 p.m. for any who want to get involved with helping them explore solutions to the issue. She also said there are other resources available to assist those who are affected by the issue. Those interested in more information on these resources or who want to get involved may call Nault at 715-732-7519.