Holladay
Holladay

MARINETTE — The Healthy Youth Coalition and Communities that Care are bringing Robb Holladay, an internationally renowned motivational speaker for teenagers, to UW-Green Bay Marinette Campus for their “Let’s Talk! Vaping & Other Gateway Drugs” event Monday.

Holladay said he’s been speaking to students for 20 years on bullying, and for the last three or four years has focused on vaping. “We’re going to do a full-on assembly letting the kids know about the dangers of vaping, about how the companies are targeting them and how addictive this stuff is, too,” he said.

“What I do is, when I come to the school, I try to act like their big brother giving them advice,” he said, “I tell them I’m not here to judge you, I’m not here to look down, I’m not even here to tell you what to do. But I want to give you some information from my expertise as a retired x-ray tech, and then when I leave, you make a decision.”

Holladay said he incorporates a lot of funny stories and audience participation to get the kids laughing and draw their attention, and once he has their attention he’s able to start sharing the message.

“I’ve been a speaker since about 1986, and in 2002 I started speaking to students at school on bullying, and they were really receptive to the message that I had,” he said. “Back about four years ago I saw the rise of vaping and all the dangers of it.”

Holladay said most people don’t realize how much nicotine is contained in vape pods, and this will be something he will discuss at Monday’s event. “One Juul pod, for instance, is as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes, and some of these kids are doing three or four pods a day.”

He said nearly 6 million people die from smoking every year, and most of those deaths are due to heart disease caused by nicotine. “I’m going to be showing them a lot of x-rays that we’ve taken from students who are vaping, because I can be wrong, people can be wrong but x-rays tell the truth. X-rays don’t lie,” he said.

“2016 is when vaping really hit. It was here before, but it really hit us hard. In 2017, Juul’s sales went up by 900% in one year. The CDC has declared vaping an epidemic of our youth. The information that we have now is 30.7% of students who vape go on to start smoking within six months,” Holladay said.

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Herbert Williams Theatre, is open to the public and does not require pre-registration.