The other day, Jered Dennis heard something alarming – in one South Okanagan secondary school, it was estimated that at least half of the students vaped.
“Now, this was an anecdotal story,” says Jered, one of Interior Health’s tobacco and vaping reduction coordinators. “But behind the story is likely some kernel of truth, and that’s concerning. It reinforces to me the importance of talking directly with young people about smoking, tobacco use and vaping.”
But how can a group of adults working in health care do that effectively? The teen audience typically doesn’t travel the same social media circles as people in their parents’ age group.
This prompted Jered and his Tobacco and Vapour Reduction teammates to think of new ways they could spark conversation with youth. The result was a new poster contest called Take A Breath: Teen Voices on Tobacco & Vaping.
Starting Oct. 1, youth living in the Interior Health region in Grades 8-12 will be invited to submit original artwork that shares a message about the impact of youth smoking/tobacco use and vaping, inspired by one of the following themes:
- The importance of ceremonial tobacco for Indigenous traditions, and how it differs from everyday (commercial) tobacco use
- Important facts about smoking/tobacco and vaping products
- Tobacco and vaping companies’ strategies to promote use
- Impact of smoking/tobacco and vaping on my life
- Environmental impact of smoking/tobacco and vaping
The contest judges will be teens from the McCreary Centre Society Youth Council, which means the entries will bear the acid test of whether people in the teen age group can relate to the poster messages.
A winning poster will be chosen for each of the five themes, professionally printed, and offered to schools for display throughout the Interior Health region as well as in IH hospitals and health-care centres. More importantly, by virtue of coming from youth artists, their messages will hopefully resonate more with people in that age group.
“Youth know better than adults about youth smoking, tobacco use and vaping,” say Priscila Nabuco, who works with Jered on the IH Tobacco and Vapour Reduction team. “It’s important to hear youth voices and views on how smoking and vaping impacts them and their friends, and also their families, schools and communities.”
Adds Jered: “Through this poster contest, we want to create opportunities for conversation between teens and their peers, and also with their parents and teachers, about smoking, vaping and tobacco use. And that, ultimately, young people will educate themselves, so they can make informed choices about nicotine use.”