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UH Hilo student campaign brings awareness to vaping dangers

Students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo are contributing to a public health campaign meant to raise awareness on the dangers of vaping as reports of serious lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping are making national headlines.

Students taking the course Health Promotion (KES 202) last fall created radio spots, a video, flyers and infographics as part of an anti-vaping campaign sponsored by the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute. They worked in groups organized by target demographic and proposed media product, and followed different models to evoke responses from each target demographic. Two versions were made of a public service announcement that aired on Hawaiʻi Island radio stations in December.

“Not many people get to do something like this where we are actually making a difference in the community,” said Bree Olson, a junior majoring in kinesiology at UH Hilo. “I felt it was valuable and worth my time doing this—it wasn’t just a class assignment. We were actually going out into the community.”

Associate Professor Misty Pacheco, who teaches the course, encouraged her students to experiment with different audience-specific health behavior models and theories when designing their materials. “The purpose of the health behavior models and theories is to predict, explain, and understand people’s behaviors and beliefs,” she says.

Other media created for the campaign—a PSA video, flyers and infographics designed for parents, teachers, coaches and would-be users—will soon be distributed by Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute.

Sally Ancheta, the Hawaiʻi Island community coordinator for the health institute who gave the students a “Vape 101” course, noted that Hawaiʻi high school students vape at twice the national rate. She says that this may be due to the large amount of radio advertising by the tobacco industry.

“We have the highest rate of advertising in the state on Hawaiʻi Island, so vaping has really been normalized,” said Ancheta. “This whole campaign is about de-normalizing vaping to youth.”

Leah Sherwood/UH News