Roy Mercon, St. Albans Messenger
ENOSBURG FALLS — Driving around the village might look a little different, thanks to three anti-electronic cigarette banners hung in various locations by high school students.
Our Voices Xposed, a high-school aged, youth-led movement against tobacco meant to educate peers about the dangers of smoking, has hung signs pointing out the dangers of e-cigarettes. These are located at the Northwestern Medical Center’s Pediatrics office, the fire station, and on a fence at Lincoln Park.
The group made an announcement about the posters at the park Monday. In attendance was Rep. Larry Fiske, R-Enosburg and Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton.
“I think [OVX] is a good program,” said Fiske. “We have to do something to curb the uses of cigarettes from our young people. I’ve met with these kids (OVX members) and I got to take my hat off to them. Exercising their First Amendment rights, as young as they are, I think it’s just a great idea. We need to do something to curb the smoking in our young people. (These posters) are a start.”
Savage felt much the same. “The kids here should be commended for the work they’re doing,” he said. “We need to get the word out for the prevention, and this group today is doing that.”
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered vaporizers that simulate the feeling of smoking, but without tobacco. Their use is commonly called “vaping.” Instead of cigarette smoke, the user inhales an aerosol, commonly called vapor. The benefits and the health risks of e-cigarettes are uncertain. There is tentative evidence that they can help people quit smoking, but they have not been proven better than regulated medications, oftentimes administered in a patch.
Ashley Tardiff, a junior student at Enosburg Falls Junior/Senior High School and group member, said, “What OVX is hoping to do is spread the word and get the facts out there about e-cigarettes and the harm that they can cause,” said. “We invited town members, other kids from our school, and pretty much everybody we could think of that wanted to come today.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or more specifically the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use among teens has tripled in the past year. Since 2011, it’s increased 800 percent.
“Most people see e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking or it is less harmful for them, when in all reality, there are chemicals and even metals in the vapor, so it’s just as harmful, if not more, than smoking regular cigarettes,” said Tardiff. “ I feel like our youth is not aware of that as much as they should be.
“We hope to get the youth and the rest of our community members more aware so that way they can outreach other people,” said Tardiff. “Hopefully, e-cigarettes will drop as far as percentage-wise within schools.”
Kyla Perry, 15, and a sophomore at Enosburg, said “When we started a campaign on e-cigarettes this year, I was really interested. I had no idea about the dangers. What I found is really interesting, and I want to spread the word to the community and hopefully make a difference.”
Though OVX’s online presence is almost non-existent these days (its website, ovx.org, is no longer active, and the last post on its Facebook page was in Sept 2015), it is the actions of youths outside of the digital space that is making the group what it is today.
Amy Brewer, coordinate of the Grand Isle/Franklin County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, said, “I’ve been working with this particular group since around 2006, and they have done an amazing job of taking leadership and helping to get the anti-smoking message out there. That’s what today was all about, getting the facts out to the public.”
“I hope the posters in town will really catch the eye of the community, and they will then spread the information and educate their families and friends,” said Perry. “Hopefully, we can spreads the word to not just our community, but other towns in Vermont, and even other states.”