Students partner with MountainWise to highlight dangers of vaping

Western Carolina University communication students are partnering with a regional health coalition and a new digital communications agency to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping for college students.

A joint effort of Communication Department students and Residential Living on campus, MountainWise and WNC Digital, the public relations campaign will address the national vaping epidemic.

“Vaping amongst 12th-graders has drastically increased over the past two years,” said Tobin Lee, Region 1 tobacco prevention manager for MountainWise. “According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 37 percent of 12th-graders reported ‘any vaping’ in the past 12 months, compared to just 27 percent in 2017. What we are beginning to see is not just an issue, it’s a national epidemic.”

Vaping is becoming more popular among first-year college students, as well.

Photo courtesy of Helen Bowen

“We notice more and more first-year students becoming involved with vaping,” said Dane Wagner, resident assistant for Reynolds Hall at WCU. “We want to ensure that students have all the information about the dangers of vaping before picking up this habit.”

WCU Residential Living is hosting an event titled “Clear the Air” to inform first-year students of the dangers of vaping. The event will be held in Walker Hall, a first-year student residence hall, on Wednesday, April 24, at 7 p.m. Free pizza and T-shirts will be distributed at the event. Guest speaker Jenni Irwin, youth tobacco coordinator for MountainWise, will highlight the dangers of vaping.

The vaping awareness campaign is one of the projects in a public relations course taught by Betty Farmer, WCU professor of communication and public relations. Wagner and fellow students Caleb Sullivan, Landon Davis, Brad Swan and Chandler Keller are all working on the campaign.

Video content for the campaign is being created by students enrolled in “Television Production I,” a course taught by John Walsh, assistant professor of communication. Four students – Alex Aiken, Kyle Jackowski, Gavin Dietz and Wyatt Burnette – are creating a video highlighting the message “Vaping Is Not as Cool as You Think.”

To highlight the negative health effects and chemicals inhaled while vaping, WCU students Dylan Kitts and Reece Hodges are developing a video titled “It’s Not as Clean as You Think.”

Also supporting the campaign is WNC Digital, which has created a Zappar code to allow for an augmented reality experience.

“We wanted to help in any way we can,” said Alex Thompson, director of business development and production for WNC Digital. “Our services will provide a unique AR experience that will bring positive attention to the campaign.”

The Print Shak, owned by Todd and Stephine Raleigh, is supplying T-shirts for the event at a discounted price.

For more information about the vaping awareness campaign, contact Shaina Clark, communications and development coordinator for MountainWise, at shaina@mountainwise.org.

By Caleb Sullivan