August 24, 2023
On July 24-26, more than 35 youth leaders and adult participants gathered at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health for the inaugural North Carolina Youth Vaping Prevention Summit. The Youth Summit was funded by proceeds from the settlement reached between JUUL Labs, Inc. and the state attorney general.
The Youth Summit connected these high school advocates with leading researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill and experts at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) Tobacco Prevention & Control Branch to learn about current efforts in vaping prevention, develop advocacy skills to use in their communities and build coalitions with other youth leaders in N.C. The youth leaders were joined by adult participants who work in vaping prevention or have a vested interest in youth engagement. Participants across the state traveled to Chapel Hill, from the mountains of Clay County to the beaches of New Hanover County, to harness the potential of youth advocacy and work towards a vape-free future for all N.C. teens.
The Youth Summit kicked off with a video message from N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, who helped secure the $40 million JUUL settlement funding, underscoring the importance of evidence-based community action in efforts to prevent the harms of vaping among the state’s future generations.
“JUUL helped cause the youth vaping epidemic in N.C., and it is fitting that the JUUL Settlement funds are invested in supporting young people’s engagement in community-based action to reverse the harms that e-cigarettes have caused in our state,” said Kurt Ribisl, PhD, Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor and Chair of Health Behavior at the Gillings School.
An estimated one in seven U.S. high school students reported current use of vape products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that nearly all students, parents, educators and those with teens in their lives have encountered e-cigarettes.
Peer advocacy is a powerful tool in the fight to prevent and address the health harms of e-cigarettes among young people.
“Youth are highly aware of issues in their communities that public health experts are actively working on,” said Inara Valliani, MPH, event co-organizer and program specialist at UNC’s Vaping Prevention Resource (VPR). “Opportunities like the N.C. Youth Vaping Prevention Summit elevate young people’s lived experiences and encourages them to inform effective change by building connections with local experts and decision-makers.”
“Youth walked away from the Summit feeling energized and empowered to bring all of the information learned to their communities,” said Caroline Ritchie, MPH, project manager for the Communicating for Health Impact Lab at the UNC Hussman School Journalism and Media. “Having a cross-generational Summit allowed not only the youth to learn from researchers and practitioners but allowed us to hear directly from youth about the issues that are important to them.”
Following the Youth Summit, participants were connected to their local NC Regional Tobacco Control Managers to support continued action and carry forward the momentum they built during the Summit. Participants will also have the opportunity later this year to apply for funding t0 support the action plans they devised at the Youth Summit.
VPR is a leading, non-commercial resource that provides communities with the latest vaping prevention resources and policy solutions. UNC researchers at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Gillings School and Hussman School founded VPR following years of collaboration on research to determine which communication, advocacy, community health and policy approaches are most successful in the fight against vaping and tobacco use. VPR guidance is used by local and national public health agencies, and their strategies shaped many of the workshops offered to participants in the Youth Summit.
“We created VPR to vastly increase the research and dissemination of vaping prevention messages and policy solutions,” said Seth M. Noar, PhD, James Howard and Hallie McLean Parker Distinguished Professor at the Hussman School. “Hosting this youth summit helps us take those efforts to the next level by directly engaging with both youth and adult leaders in this space.”
Many additional members of the VPR team were involved in planning the Youth Summit, including Hannah Prentice-Dunn, MPH, program director at Lineberger. They were joined by local public health experts from NC DHHS, the POE Center for Health Education, Counter Tools, the Center for Black Health & Equity, the Rural Community Action Program and the Orange Partnership for Alcohol & Drug-Free Youth.
Among the experts was Ray Riordan, MS, Director of Local Policy and Program Development for the NC DHHS Tobacco Prevention & Control Branch.
“We know that 90% of adults who smoke begin this deadly addiction at the age of 18 or younger,” Riordan said. “As a result, youth are important champions of change who can encourage their peers to be vape-free, urge lawmakers to take action and stand up to the vape industry’s predatory marketing.”
To learn more about the current landscape of vaping prevention, please visit VPR at vapingprevention.org.
If you or a teen you know wants to quit vaping, text VAPEFREENC to 873373 to access free 24/7 coaching and support over text.
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at email@example.com.