Teen advocates to rally at State House in opposition to e-cigarettes

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MONTPELIER — A group of concerned high school students plans to march to the Vermont State House on Tuesday to bring the attention of e-cigarettes to legislators.

Our Voices Xposed (OVX) is a youth-led organization supported by the Vermont Department of Health. The group works to educate its school and community about reducing smoking and the use of tobacco-related products.

From 9:15 to 10 a.m., OVX and teens advocates from across the state will march from Montpelier High School to the State House, and then from 11 a.m. to noon, OVX will meet with legislators. The state representative of Bennington, Ruqaiyah "Kiah" Morris, will be the keynote speaker.

OVX will focus on the impact e-cigarettes and the advertising for this product has on the youth in Vermont.

"Spreading the word about tobacco and the horrible consequences that come with it, is something that I love to do," OVX member Riley Vogel said. "I'm looking forward to also meeting our members of the State House to see what they are doing about smoking and other tobacco related issues."

Vogel joined the group during his freshman year and expects to get a deeper understanding about what the State House is working on. He's passionate about the issue and is looking to do more for his community in order to spread awareness.

An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that heats liquid from an inhalable aerosol and offers a wide variety of flavors that can be used in recharged and refilled pens. They contain harmful toxins that can damage lung and heart health, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

According to the 2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 30 percent of students have used electronic vapor products at least once, and during the last 30 days, 15 percent of all students claimed they've used an electronic vapor product.

The addition of varied flavor tobacco has caused a significant increase in use with each high school grade from ninth to 11th. Furthermore, six percent of students have tried a flavored tobacco product prior to age 13.

"I have been to many events that OVX does but I have never been to the state rally," Vogel said. "When I went down to Montpelier for the OVX leadership training last year, they said that since 2014, the number of underage smokers had gone down from 11.2 percent to 8.1 percent. This statistic means a lot to me because it shows that we can make a difference."

Those seeking help to quit tobacco products can visit www.802quits.org or call 1-800-784-8669.

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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