Escape the Vape event provides information, discussion, resources on youth vaping epidemic

Photo Mental Health Systems: Colton Community Coalition for CHANGE youth with city of Colton Mayor Pro Tem Ernest R. Cisneros, third from left, and Colton Joint Unified School District Board Member Israel Fuentes, second from right.
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MHS Central Valley Prevention Program and Community Coalitions for CHANGE hosted the first annual 2019 Escape the Vape event on Monday, Oct. 21 . Community members from Bloomington, Colton, Grand Terrace, Rialto, Muscoy, and San Bernardino gathered at the San Bernardino Valley College Business Center to attend the event held in response to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order to Confront the Youth Vaping Epidemic. The executive order states that the Department of Public Health (CDPH) is to launch a $20 million statewide digital and social media public awareness campaign to educate youth and parents about the risks associated with vaping nicotine and cannabis products. CDPH will also be developing media that discusses those risks, specifically where these products are being sold as well as on any smoking product advertisements.

According to the office of CA Governor Newsom, “Vaping devices are the most commonly used tobacco product in California and more than 80% of high-school teens who consume tobacco use a vaping device. Of the California teens who consume tobacco products, 86.4% report using a flavored tobacco product. There are over 15,500 e-liquid flavors, some of which have proven to cause significant health effects.”

Community Coalitions for CHANGE is a coalition established in 2010 that has been working to help reduce underage drinking, smoking, and other drug use among their communities in the cities of Bloomington, Colton, Grand Terrace, Rialto, Muscoy, and San Bernardino.

The most recent project addressing the epidemic of vaping among youth started with the powerful voice of an 11-year-old girl named Margareth Gonzalez, a student at Terrace Hills Middle School in Grand Terrace. Her biggest concern was that youth did not know what was actually in the vapes they were smoking, and that they thought it to be safe and harmless. Margareth also began to realize that she was surrounded by inescapable clouds of smoke and wondered if she was the only one who felt that way.

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Photo MHS: 11-year-old Margareth Gonzalez Talamantes and her peers sharing their story at Escape the Vape.

Margareth became concerned about her generation and how they would be affected for years to come. She wanted to do more and create change in the community. Three months into the school year she proposed to her principal a new prevention club at school that would help address issues such as the dangers of vaping and other drug use, she was granted approval of the club, and held her first club meeting with more than ten attendees, all within the first term of the school year. When asked “why” by several people in the audience, her response remained the same each time – “I want to help create a safe and healthy environment for as many kids as I can, and help as many of them escape the vape.”

The event held last week covered the dangers of vaping and what is found in vapes. “This event was a great opportunity for the community to come together and learn about the issues of vaping. Having a lot of youth show up and seeing so many of them willing to learn and share their experiences was an amazing thing to see” said Elena Zermeno, youth leader and student at San Bernardino Valley College.

The purpose of this event was to create a safe space to address the concerns community members had on the current youth vaping epidemic, provide education and resources on the subject, and how the community can get involved.

“The Escape the Vape event was very inspiring due to how many youth filled up the room. It’s very empowering to be in a room where the youth are on the same page in relation to the efforts you are trying to make in your community. Seeing all the youth encouraged tells us to not give up and continue our efforts in our community. It is like a chain reaction, if the youth see that you can achieve your goals then they are more likely to get motivated to want to follow in those footsteps. Escape the Vape was a great eye-opening experience and demonstrated that we truly are not alone in this effort, we have community, agencies, youth, and a lot of others who are here to support us,” said Maria Ximena Vasquez, youth leader and member of Community Coalitions for CHANGE.

This event was put on by Mental Health Systems-Central Valley Prevention Program and Community Coalitions for CHANGE in collaboration with San Bernardino Valley College, California Health Collaborative, and other leading tobacco agencies to help address this huge epidemic on youth vaping. For more information call MHS Central Valley Prevention Program at (909) 423-0312.

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