Students learn about vaping dangers

Ryan Cuda, center, and Colin Roark, right, juniors at St. Xavier High School, answered questions from middle schoolers at St. Agnes School May 21. Dave Ianke, St. Xavier counselor, looked on. The high school students are part of a Peer Leader club that pledges to abstain from drugs and alcohol. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

As the popularity of vaping grows among young people, students from St. Xavier High School spoke to middle schoolers at St. Agnes School about the harms of e-cigarettes, commonly referred to as vaping.

Colin Roark and Ryan Cuda, both juniors at St. X, spoke to fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders at St. Agnes on May 21.

Both students are members of St. X’s Peer Leader club, which seeks to promote a clean lifestyle and ways to avoid peer pressure.

Members of the Peer Leader group are juniors and seniors who pledge to remain tobacco, alcohol and other drug free and to serve as positive role models, said David Ianke, a counselor at St. Xavier and moderator of the Peer Leader club. Club members take part in programs at elementary schools, with parent groups and within the St. Xavier community.

Ianke said a key focus of the group is to bring awareness and to educate those at risk for taking up an addictive habit.

“What we are seeing in our schools, even our grade schools, is the rise of vaping. It’s become the new thing. It’s being promoted to teenagers, and even younger, as a safe alternative (to smoking), but it’s not,” he said.

E-cigarettes heat nicotine, extracted from tobacco, flavorings and other chemicals into a water vapor that you inhale. While less toxic than traditional cigarettes, vaping still contains various chemicals, many of which are toxic.

Roark said he is passionate about the Peer Leader group because he shares the same values the club promotes.

“We want to let them (students) know that not everyone is doing it. When one of their peers is saying it, it resonates more,” he said.

Cuda shared with the students that he decided to remain drug and alcohol free because he has other priorities and values his health. He told the students that as a member of the St. X swim team he doesn’t want the ill effects of vaping to affect his athletic ability.

The two also addressed peer pressure and provided strategies to the younger students to stay clear of drugs and alcohol.

Roark told the students that if he’s offered an e-cigarette or alcohol, he simply tells his friends he’s not interested.

If someone continues to pressure you or gives you a hard time, he said, they weren’t your friend to begin with.

Visiting area grade schools also gives younger students the opportunity to ask questions, Cuda said.

“It’s important to talk with them now and prevent it before it’s an issue and they become addicted,” he said.

Fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders at St. Agnes School listened to a presentation by St. Xavier High School students on the dangers of vaping.

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