CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hundreds of RAZE Crews descended on the West Virginia State Capital on Monday for the annual Tobacco-Free Day.
The main events occurred at the state Culture Center where high school and middle school-aged students came together to discuss what needs to be done and how to go about getting it done when it comes to tobacco use among teens.
Erin Ross, a Capital High School junior in the RAZE program says she knows plenty of students around the state who smoke and she just wants to lead the charge to stop.
“I think that every kid should be involved in something but especially something that matters to them. With me, it matters because I want our generation to be tobacco-free. It’s a really big issue with kids our age,” Ross said.
Recently at the Capitol, State Health Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp told state lawmakers more than one in three, or 35.7%, of West Virginia high school students report current use of e-cigarettes.
Students and RAZE instructors were able to speak with lawmakers on Monday about vaping/smoking issues and ask questions.
“I think they can tighten up on these small stores in our area and make sure that they don’t sell to our young people. I think that is a big thing,” Teena Gray, a teacher at Capital and adult RAZE advisor told MetroNews.
In December, federal officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a new provision for smoking age to be 21 instead of 18. Ross believes more needs to be done.
“I would like to see some more laws against juuling and vaping,” she said. “They raised the smoking age but that’s not going to stop people, especially with vaping. And vaping is horrible for your lungs. It’s just as bad as a cigarette.”
Slemp further reported numbers for 2019 tobacco use such as more than 60% of high school students, or 62.4%, report having tried e-cigarettes, which is up 44% from 2017. She also said 1 out of every 6 middle schoolers in the state is vaping.
While the numbers are alarming, Gray said she is hopeful for the future.
“Once you get educated, it’s like why would you do that,” she said. “I am very strong about this. I just want to have the power to explain to students how terrible it is.”