‘Quit Lying’ campaign takes on tobacco propaganda

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Volunteers from the STEPS Coalition manned a booth in the Southington High School cafeteria that took aim at tobacco company propaganda.

SHERIDAN ROY

STAFF WRITER

Hundreds of Southington High School students took a stand against tobacco use last week in the American Heart Association’s #QuitLying anti-vaping campaign in collaboration with the Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) coalition. The campaign urges tobacco companies to stop lying to youth about the dangers of vaping.

“The goal of this campaign is to get students to realize that big tobacco is lying to teens about the dangers of vaping,” said STEPS Coalition outreach coordinator  Megan Albanese. “It also encourages teens to stop lying to their parents about vaping, or lying to others about being addicted.”

STEPS members and AHA representatives staked out during SHS’s four lunch waves of the day. Large posters hung on the walls with a letter addressed to “BIG VAPE.” Students were encouraged to sign the letter.

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“You say vaping isn’t smoking, but the nicotine in one pod equals an entire pack of cigarettes,” states the letter. “Lying leads more people to smoking. Lying is producing lung disease, heart disease and cancer. Lying has landed hundreds of e-cigarette users in hospitals those are the facts. And the fact is lying kills.”

According to Albanese, vape usage had increased by 140 percent in Southington from 2015 to 2017. Part of the problem, she said, is that vaping companies target youth in their advertisements.

“They draw kids into this with the gadgets, the secrecy,” she said. “It’s not like traditional cigarette smoke. It comes in flavors like cotton candy and other sweet fruit flavors—flavors that are attractive to kids.”

The AHA held #QuitLying campaigns in high schools all across the country on Thursday, Jan. 16.

“Our goal is to educate all students on the truth about vape products,” said one AHA representative at the SHS event. “We are asking for accountability, honesty, and we want to make sure that these companies stop promoting products targeting the youth.”

The STEPS Coalition drew hundreds of signatures at Southington High School with a recent campaign to counter tobacco propaganda.

The AHA representative said the organization is grateful to be able to partner with local school administrators and organizations like STEPS in order to spread the message and speak directly with students.

“We are extremely proud and thankful of SHS for taking the lead by joining in the campaign,” said the representative. “We want to thank administration for allowing students the opportunity to participate in Quit Lying day.”

Board of education member Missy Cipriano was on the scene greeting students who came up to sign the letter.

“This falls right into our vision of a graduate of helping our kids be 21st century-ready,” said Cipriano. She said students can’t be their best selves and excel while under the damaging effects of vaping and other tobacco products.

The AHA’s #QuitLying is part of a three-pronged approach to help end youth vaping. The other elements are a new $20 million research investment, called the “End the Lies Youth Vaping and Nicotine Research” initiative, focused on the long-term health effects in youth, and a multi-year fund dedicated to public policy change at all levels of government to prevent youth vaping and nicotine addiction.

The problem, and the lying, stretches far beyond SHS. According to AHA, the 2019 national youth tobacco survey reported the number of teens who vape has more than doubled in just the past two years, now up to five million. More than one in four high school students report vaping.

AHA is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives, dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, the AHA funds innovative research, advocates for the public’s health and shares lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. To learn more about AHA, visit heart.org, or call 1-800-AHA-USA1.

To learn more about the campaign, visit www.quitlying.org.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.