Kailey Foster: Recently, USU Extension was awarded a grant to help serve counties in rural Utah with vape and e-cigarette prevention recourses. Joining me today is Dr. Ashley Yaugher, Health & Wellness faculty at USU Extension and Be Epic Project Director.
First, why is there a need for a prevention program such as this?
Dr. Ashley Yaugher: Prevention for anything is really important, especially in our youth. So, in southeast Utah, we have much higher rates of tobacco use and smoking in our youth. We saw that vaping has continued to increase even more in areas including Carbon, Emery, and Grand counties.
We found that this is such an important need to prevent our youth from developing further issues and health issues to really focus on; what can we do instead? And what are the protective factors to protect our youth?
KF: What kind of impacts can vaping have on your health, especially in young people?
AY: There's a lot of negative impacts that vape has on health for all individuals, but particularly for young people, because we see a lot of ads and things that say vaping is safer, it's just vapor. And that's just not true. And that's a very commonly held misbelief; that it's safe, or it's less bad than cigarettes, but it's just not true.
For youth, in particular, it can really alter their behavior, cognitive process- the way that they think, and their interactions with other people. Even further for youth, it can start them on a really negative trajectory for using other substances. It is actually quite substantial, the number of people that start with vape, and then transition to traditional cigarettes or other tobacco products.
KF: Can you tell us what the Be Epic program is and how you plan to address this issue?
AY: Be Epic is an excellent program that we have through USU Extension and a few partners in our local communities. And we are targeting four key factors.
1. We are training the parents. We show parents what to look for, how they can protect their youth, what are some of the risk factors, and things that they can see.
2. We're training the teachers on an evidence-based curriculum. We look at how they can teach and prevent some of this in the classroom. Teachers are with our youth all the time so, they are a really important part of our prevention system.
3. We're doing an after school modified program of the same curriculum that's evidence and research-based with about 20 youth in each of our counties. So, we're really aiming to get this information out to the people who need it the most, including parents, teachers, and youth.
4. The last component is a marketing campaign to really share on social media and online all that there is to know. What are the facts? What does the evidence say for preventing and helping us to see the risk factors of substance use?
For more information on the Be Epic program check out extension.usu.edu/be-epic/