Gulf Middle students make anti-vaping pledge
More than 500 students at Gulf Middle School took the pledge to not vape by joining the American Heart Association’s #QuitLying campaign, the first school in Lee County to do so.
The School District of Lee County spokesperson Rob Spicker said although thankfully the number of tobacco/vaping incidents have slowed down this semester, there has been a dramatic increase the last couple of years. He said there were 155 incidents during the 2016/2017 school year; 543 during the 2017/2018 school year and 910 incidents during the 2018/2019 year. So far this year there has been 296 incidents.
Gulf Middle School Assistant Principal Emma Winfield said in the fall the school held its first Color Run with the American Heart Association, which was the jumping off point of how they got involved with the #QuitLying Campaign.
Emily Cooper, the American Heart Association youth marketing director for this region, contacted the school and asked if they would like to join the #QuitLying Campaign. Winfield said they jumped on board because they want to help students stay safe and make good decisions.
The #QuitLying Campaign, she explained is a campaign to bring awareness to the dangers of vaping and the lies that the tobacco and vaping companies are putting out there.
Some of the lies that are listed on quitlying.org include “vaping is safe,” “vaping isn’t smoking,” “Big Vape isn’t big tobacco” and “vape flavors weren’t designed for teens.”
“We did a quick presentation during lunch and asked the kids if they were willing to sign a postcard,” she said, adding that it touched upon advertising companies needing to be transparent with their advertising.
The postcards are sent to the big vaping companies asking them to stop saying their products are safe.
The letter, which individuals can sign with their first name and age on quitlying.org, includes such messages as “not sure if you’re aware, but lying is bad. And you’ve been lying for a long time.” Another message “you say vaping isn’t smoking, but the nicotine in one pod equals an entire pack of cigarettes.”
The letter ends with “it’s obvious to us — teachers, school administrators, parents, the American Heart Association, and especially students — that vaping is a life or death health threat. But the bigger epidemic in this country is even more sinister: your lying.”
“We are so fortunate here at Gulf Middle. We have great kids. We had the vast majority of the kids sign a postcard,” Winfield said, adding that they received more than 300 postcards. “The kids needed to start doubling up on the postcards. We had close to 500 to 600 kids out there pledging not to vape and asking the tobacco and vaping companies to stop lying.”
Winfield said hopefully the campaign will lead into conversations with other students, as well as their parents. She said they have awareness posted around the building to remind the students that vaping is not harmless, but rather dangerous.
“Hopefully it becomes part of the culture,” Winfield said, of not participating in vaping.
She said #QuitLying was a fun, quick, easy campaign to bring awareness to the kids and keep them safe.
The topic of tobacco and other drugs are discussed in health, which all sixth grade students take, as well as science classes and advisory periods.
“It’s kind of an ongoing message that we share with our students to make sure they are making good decisions,” Winfield said. “We are super proud of our kids. They are taking ownership of their decisions and trying to be smart about what they are being exposed to.”
She said that the language arts classes did a lesson on propaganda, sharing that all advertising is not necessarily good advertising.
“I’m sure we will do this again next year,” Winfield said, adding that it will most likely be more in-depth to make a stand stating that this is not right and the companies need to stop targeting students.