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AHS student club studies peer vaping with $4,000 grant

Arlington Youth Health and Safety Coalition Director Karen Koretsky has announced that the Arlington High School's 84 Club received a grant to study vaping in their community and school. 

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The 84 Club works to educate their peers about the tactics used by big tobacco companies to target youth. The $4,000 grant was awarded by Health Resource in Action, which manages the 84 movement for the Boston Public Health Department. 

The grant allowed the club's students to map tobacco retailers in Arlington and survey their peers to understand vaping use and perceptions within Arlington's schools. As part of their research, students used the addresses of Arlington vape retailers to create a map of the locations on the Students were able to see which locations were closest to schools, public parks and playgrounds. They also visited these retailers to create a "photovoice" project that combines photographs and narratives to document their perceptions. 

From left to right: Mr. Sagar Desai (Harvard Chan School), Ellie Egan (graduated 2019), Abi Siegal (graduated 2019), Sophie Snibbe (10th grade), Elizabeth Liakos (graduated 2019), Grant Wadman (graduated 2019), Karen Koretsky (Director AYHSC), Claire Egan (10th grade), Gwen Van Allen (10th grade), Olive Eng-Canty (11th grade), Maya Jacob (11th grade). (Courtesy Arlington Youth Health and Safety Coalition)From left, Sagar Desai (Harvard Chan School), Ellie Egan (graduated 2019), Abi Siegal (graduated 2019), Sophie Snibbe (10th grade), Elizabeth Liakos (graduated 2019), Grant Wadman (graduated 2019), Karen Koretsky (director AYHSC), Claire Egan (10th grade), Gwen Van Allen (10th grade), Olive Eng-Canty (11th grade), Maya Jacob (11th grade). / photo from AYHSC

The group also put on an Arlington High School vaping study, which included responses from 834 students and 45 teachers across all grade levels. The study indicated that while there is a higher percentage of students who have tried vaping than reported in a 2016 survey, only 17 percent of recent respondents reported using a vape regularly. (Eighty-three percent of respondents reported that they have not vaped in the last 30 days.) 

The vaping use rate among the Arlington High School community is less than the national average. According to the 2018 Monitoring the Future survey, America’s teens report a dramatic increase in their use of vaping devices in just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting “any vaping” in the past 12 months, compared to just 27.8 percent in 2017.

Reports of past-year marijuana vaping also increased, with a 13.1 percent rate of use for 12th-graders, up from 9.5 percent last year. 

“Teens are clearly attracted to the marketable technology and flavorings seen in vaping devices; however, it is urgent that teens understand the possible effects of vaping on overall health; the development of the teen brain and the potential for addiction,” said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

 “Research tells us that teens who vape may be at risk for transitioning to regular cigarettes, so while we have celebrated our success in lowering their rates of tobacco use in recent years, we must continue aggressive educational efforts on all products containing nicotine.”

During their work, students gained new skills in survey construction, data collection and data analysis, and received public speaking consultation from a trainer from The 84, a statewide movement of students fighting tobacco use based out of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. 

"Public health recognizes the importance of involving stakeholders in a collaborative effort, and students were able to experience this," Koretsky said in a July 16 news release. "They participated in a fair and inclusive process in order to inform and share ownership of the problem and project and amplified the voice of Arlington students."

Koretsky and Sagar Desai from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health mentored the students on their research. Club members presented their findings to the Arlington Board of Health and members of the Arlington High School administration in June.

They also made suggestions for potential new regulations or restrictions that can help keep their peers safe. The 84 Club will also use what they have learned to strategize for future prevention and outreach activities.

This news announcement was published Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

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