Teenagers from across Westchester County gathered on the campus of Westchester Medical Center in front of the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Valhalla to share their experiences about leading a vape-free lifestyle.
The event was sponsored by the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth with support from coalitions around the county and is designed to counter the pro-420 marijuana messaging that surrounds April 20 every year.
“Nationally and locally, we are seeing an alarming increase in teen vaping, but we are working to dispel the myth that all teens are vaping The teens who came today are clearly leaders and not follower -- but they need our support and encouragement to continue to make healthy choices,” said Patricia McCarthy Tomassi, Director, Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth.
As part of the day's activities, students participated in a scavenger hunt through a giant set of inflatable lungs, big enough for a dozen students to walk through at a time.
“I am here today because I believe our society has a problem where too many of our youth, too many of our general population, don't see how drugs can negatively affect them. I think there are so many things that we can do, such as regulate e-cigarettes,” said Abe Baker-Butler from Blind Brook High School.
“All of the influences that we have today through media and music, they are very misleading, are not really harmless, and they can hurt us in the long term,” said Jayda Pickett from Mount Vernon High School.
“It was never easy to be drug free and it never will be, but it's so worth it because the benefits of being drug free outweigh the negatives of the peer pressure and the backlash that you get from your friends,” said Giana Bartko from Ardsley High School.
Another student, Jack Waxman from Scarsdale High School, shared his mission to have county legislators prohibit e-cigarettes from containing flavors that are attractive to young people. Waxman has been traveling the state in an effort to educate and influence local lawmakers about flavored e- cigarettes.
“I am here today to talk about e-cigarettes, and the exotic flavors that are being sold with them. You have flavors like cotton candy and creme brulee. E-cigarettes show a serious public health risk and the solution to that problem is regulating these flavors,” Waxman said.
Waxman and the other speakers caught the attention and respect of Westchester Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins.
“Our young people that are here...inspire me to get out that message to all of our young people to escape the vape, that vaping is dangerous and to have that drug-free life,” Jenkins said.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.