(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – In a press conference held last week, Governor Mike Parson announced the launch of the state’s Clear the Air youth vaping awareness campaign to bring attention to the risks of using electronic cigarettes and vaping products.
In October, Governor Parson signed Executive Order 19-18 directing the Departments of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and Public Safety (DPS) to use existing resources to develop a statewide campaign to educate, warn, and deter the use of vaping devices among Missouri’s youth.
“One of the most important responsibilities I have as Governor is to protect the health and well-being of our future generations. Vaping is truly an epidemic among our youth, and we must take action now to educate them about the potential risks of these products,” Governor Parson said. “Over the last 30 days, DHSS, DESE, and DPS have worked hard to develop this campaign, and we appreciate their team effort to bring awareness to the dangers of youth vaping and ensure a healthy public now and in the future.”
The Clear the Air campaign will educate Missourians on the dangers associated with youth vaping by dispelling myths and providing facts about how the products and chemicals impact the health and brain development of our youth.
Over the past month, DHSS, DPS, and DESE have worked together with partners from additional state departments and external agencies to learn more about the epidemic and how existing resources could be used for education on e-cigarette use. The social media portion of the Clear the Air campaign, which consists of graphics and a series of videos specifically targeting Missouri’s youth, launched on YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat today. A website for youth to learn more about the public health issue was also created at stopthevapemissouri.org.
“We greatly appreciate the Governor’s initiative in bringing together different state departments and our external partners, which has significantly moved us forward toward our goal of preventing harm to both young adults and others,” said Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams. “The rate of teen vaping in Missouri is continuing to climb. We believe the Clear the Air campaign is a great first step toward educating Missourians and changing this trajectory.”
Parents and educators are witnessing the negative impact of e-cigarette use and subsequent nicotine addiction on youth each day at homes and in schools. As part of the campaign, fact sheets for educators, parents, and medical providers are also in production, along with posters for school facilities.
“It is alarming to hear that 20 percent of Missouri students are now addicted to vaping,” Missouri PTA President Susan Rupert said. “The educators and parents supporting these children need help addressing this epidemic. This youth-focused campaign gives our students the hard facts while also better informing and supporting our school leaders and families across Missouri as they address this urgent issue with their students.”
Through communication with district administrators and a variety of other means, DESE will help bring Clear the Air campaign materials to Missouri schools and families at no cost. Additionally, cessation and addiction treatment information will be made available in order to arm schools with helpful resources.
“The Clear the Air campaign is designed to better educate on the harmful effects of vaping and to provide educators and families with strategies to put an end to youth vaping in Missouri,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said. “We are pleased to work with other state agencies and school leaders in this joint effort to protect the safety and well-being of our children.”
The Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) enforces Missouri and federal laws that ban the sale of tobacco and vaping products to persons under age 18. Each year, ATC conducts about 6,000 enforcement operations and inspections of retailers across the state. Over the last month, ATC’s six full-time tobacco and vaping enforcement agents have emphasized enforcement efforts at retailers who sell vaping products.
“Our enforcement operations show that across Missouri, 83 percent of retailers are checking IDs and refusing sales to those who are under age 18,” said Dottie Taylor, State Supervisor of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. “We’re confident that through continuing enforcement and merchant education and training we can move the compliance percentage closer to 100 percent. Even more important, we’d like to see fewer and fewer young people tempted by vaping. We believe the Clear the Air campaign can help make that happen, and we’re committed to working with everyone interested in fighting this threat to the health of Missouri’s youth.”