ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – As youth vaping increases nationwide, kids in Roanoke Valley are doing something about it.
“There’s a lot of people I know that vape and I don’t really like it,” says Steven Mckee, an 8th grader at James Madison Middle School. “I definitely don’t think it’s the healthiest option ever. It’s almost just as bad as smoking, but I want to raise awareness for it because I don’t want people underage to be smoking it.”
The Roanoke Youth Leadership Alliance (RYLA), an organization sponsored by the Roanoke Prevention Alliance (RPA) and supported by the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia, works with youth in Roanoke City on multi-layered projects designed to support positive and healthy behavior.
They’re scheduled to make a presentation to members of the Roanoke City Council about youth vaping and their ideas about how to reduce youth access to vape products.
“We bring topics to the youth for their consideration and different directions they may want to go. It’s an area of concern for the grant we have funding for, and really the youth definitely just jumped in and said, ‘we are aware of this increasing, we see it, and so we want to do something about it,'” says J.D. Carlin, a youth leadership coordinator for RYLA.
In the cities of Roanoke and Salem and the counties of Botetourt and Craig, youth in 10th and 12th grade have increased self-reported use of vape products. The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that these grades have increased 30-day use from 20.6% in 2017 to 30.9% in 2019, meaning that nearly 3 out of 10 youth reported using a vape product in the past 30 days.
Four local youths will be presenting – three 9th graders from Patrick Henry High School and one 8th grader from James Madison Middle School.
Carlin says that not only do they want to raise awareness of the increase of youth vaping in the Roanoke Valley, but they want community members to acknowledge the future leaders of the Roanoke community.
“We have great kids here and we want to make sure we put bright lights on them and let the community know there are some really fantastic youths and we should feel positive about that,” says Carlin.