Students from Boothbay Region High School and Lincoln Academy pose with community partners at the Maine State House on April 2.
Damariscotta, ME (April 15, 2019) – Students from Lincoln Academy and Boothbay Region High School teamed up on April 2 at the Maine State House to meet with legislators about the need for increased regulations on e-cigarette devices. The event was put on by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, and was focused on legislation to prevent and reduce tobacco use in Maine.
The BRHS students, who are part of the school’s Student Health Advisory Board (SHAB), have been working to reduce vaping among their peers. The students from Lincoln Academy, Riley Stevenson and Chris Burrow, heard about the SHAB’s work at the March Substance Use Prevention Partnership (SUPP) meeting and jumped on board to join them at the State House.
The use of e-cigarette devices (commonly referred to as vaping, or by the brand, such as JUUL-ing) has been rising in popularity among middle school and high school students. Many students do not know that these products contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance. National data from 2018 has shown a 78% increase in recent use of these devices by high school students, and the students agree that this dramatic increase in vaping is happening at their schools. The Boothbay SHAB has been educating students on the risk of using e- cigarette devices through media campaigns at the school, and they have presented to middle school students to warn them of the dangers of this new trend.
The combined group of students met with Lincoln County Representative Holly Stover and
Senator Dana Dow on April 2 to discuss how the rising popularity of vaping has affected them as students. They discussed LD1028, which focuses on preventing and reducing tobacco use in Maine by raising the excise tax, and requires that e-cigarette devices be taxed at the same rate as other tobacco products. The bill, if passed, would increase funding for the state tobacco control program, allowing additional resources to be allocated for prevention and treatment.
After meeting with lawmakers the students were welcomed and applauded by the Senate and
House of Representatives. “The Day at the Capitol event provided a unique opportunity to meet with our legislators and witness the process of passing legislation in our state while also lobbying for an important issue with the support of an entire group with the same goals,” says Riley Stevenson, sophomore at Lincoln Academy.
The student groups were accompanied by BRHS school guidance counselor Tammy Blackman,
Kate Martin and Jess Breithaupt of Healthy Lincoln County, and Kelsey Wollen of LincolnHealth. The bill has been referred to a committee on taxation before going before the Senate and House floors. The students, however, will continue raising awareness on this issue by educating students in middle schools through presentations in April and May.