Health conference combats e-cigs, vaping use among Wisconsin teens

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Vaping and JUULing are forms of e-cigarettes that are popular with Wisconsin's youth. Use of these products have skyrocketed from 4-percent in 2014 to 20-percent in 2018.

Health officials say these products are not safe but there is a reason why today's youth seem to love them. "9 out of 10 Wisconsin kids right now wouldn't try these products if they were not flavored and we also know the brain is still developing at the youth age so nicotine and trying substances at that age does have negative effects on the developing adolescence brain," explained Jenna Flynn, Public Health Educator with the Marathon County Health Department.

Students find the products to be the cool new trend. "I think a lot of people are not really seeing the consequences about this and that it is just cool," said Jacquelin Sii, Junior at Lincoln High School.

It's a growing problem at area schools. "Last week we met with our resource officer and he already had 98 incidents with vaping at school. It is a huge problem and what we are finding is kids don't see it as a immediate problem," said Chris Bondioli, School Counselor at Lincoln High School.

On Thursday educators, public health professionals and people who work with youth attended Marshfield Clinic's conference to learn more about the dangers and prevention. "I think it is just a lot of information gathering. We have some presenters with good resources that hopefully we can bring back to parents and our students to help address the issue," Bondioli said.

The best thing you can do is a start dialogue. "Just starting the conversation is a good first step or parents or anybody really working with youth or serving in youth organizations. Because the kids aren't the enemy they are the targets. They need the resources and adults to help them," said Flynn.

Marshfield Clinic is offering $500 stipends to community organizations and schools to mobilize discussion and efforts on e-cigarette initiatives, up to $20,000. Applications for their grants must be submitted by June 21. For more information email healthycommunitiesgrant@marshfieldclinic.org.