Fayetteville, Ark. (KNWA) — New data shows more than 25% of high school students are vaping. So the American Heart Association is teaming up with teens to stop the epidemic.
Counts Elizabeth Shanks is just 15, but she has already been around vaping for years.
“It really became prevalent when I went to junior high. There’s a statistic that says 1 in 4 students have used e-cigarettes in the past month, and I’m shocked this number isn’t higher,” Shanks said.
Her sister in junior high sees it all the time too.
“She came in from her first week at junior high and said, “The bathrooms smell so bad because all you can smell in the air is vape use,”” Shanks said.
Their mother, Counts Shanks, was sure to prepare them for the peer pressure.
“You’re going to be approached with these things. It may be a friend, someone you don’t know or a friend’s older sibling and we want you to have the background and knowledge to make the right decision,” Counts Shanks said.
Counts Shanks suggests being open with your children.
“Kids want to learn. They’re brilliant and we shouldn’t shelter them from anything. They aren’t sheltered anymore. Things are different. We need to be open with them to protect them,” she said.
Now armed with knowledge, her daughter has teamed up with the American Heart Association.
“We are fighting this epidemic, enlisting our youth as our foot soldiers in this campaign,” Communications Director for the American Heart Association of NWA, Cyd King said.
She says the goal is to educate other kids about the potential dangers.
“There’s not a lot we know and that’s really at this point even dangerous, more dangerous perhaps,” King said.
“They’re targeting youth and addicting a whole new generation to this very dangerous habit. It’s nicotine. It’s addictive,” Counts Shanks said.
It is a message Counts Elizabeth Shanks now works to pass on to her classmates.
“They don’t realize that we are the first generation to really fall into this epidemic. And because we are the first generation, we don’t know the long-term effects,” she said.
She hopes her friends don’t learn them the hard way.
The American Heart Association is now investing $20 million to study the harms of e-cigarettes.