Riverhead Youth Coalition Members Meet with Lawmakers to Discuss Teen Vaping


Members of the Riverhead Youth Coalition (RYC) recently met with Suffolk County lawmakers to discuss concerns about the growing issue of teen vaping. Legislators Al Krupski and Bridget Fleming met with 15 high school and middle school students at Riverhead Middle School on Wednesday, April 3rd to gain insight into teen vaping and share what actions the county is taking to reduce youth access to vape products and ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems).

“It was an eye-opening experience to learn the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems was so prevalent and I was impressed with the young members of CAP who have a good grasp of the issue,” said Legislator Krupski.  “I have reached out to the chair of the Health Committee and we hope to arrange a presentation by the CAP members at a future meeting in Riverhead.  The information they can provide will be helpful to the Suffolk County Legislature as we move forward crafting legislation and policy.”

proposed legislation

RYC members talked about the popularity of flavored vape products among their peers and their concern about the increasing number of vape shops in the community. Environmental scans performed by youth reveal an alarming amount of advertising on store windows promoting vaping, which they feel normalizes this behavior. They suggested legislation limiting vape advertisements and signage on storefronts.

Suffolk County is currently considering legislation to increase penalties for retailers who sell ENDS products to individuals under 21. Students pointed out that most teens who vape get the products from their friends or online with debit and gift cards. Previous legislation, which has since been tabled, considered limiting liquid nicotine flavors to tobacco, mint and menthol because fruit and candy flavorings are enticing to teens.

Youth who participated in the meeting found it to be educational and rewarding. “We were able to share our personal experiences, from what’s been going on throughout the community and through the school, to better Suffolk County,” said Imani Thomas, a Riverhead High School sophomore. “I was glad to hear what the legislators heard about vaping, and for us to explain what we know about it as well. It’s great to be a part of this knowing that I made a change in this community. I hope to later team up with them again.”

a teen health epidemic

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams called youth vaping an epidemic in his December 2018 e-cigarette advisory, with 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students reporting e-cigarette use in the U.S. According to a youth survey conducted by Riverhead CAP in 2018, approximately 1 in 5 eighth grade students and 1 in 3 high school students reported vaping in the past 30 days. The number of eighth graders who vaped in 2018 was more than double the number in 2016.

RYC members record radio PSAs at Beach 101.7 that warn about the harmful chemicals in ENDS products and the risk of addiction for young users. The popular JUUL cartridge or “pod” contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. According to the Surgeon General, JUUL has the greatest market share of any e-cigarette in the U.S., with a 600% surge in sales in 2016-2017.

“Vaping is fast becoming a health crisis for this generation since we have no idea of the long term impacts of inhaling these chemicals,” said Legislator Fleming. “As public servants, we are tasked with crafting legislation to solve our community issues. I look forward to working with CAP with their grassroots efforts to combat youth drug abuse.”

“It was really great talking to the legislators and possibly to be a part of a change in the community,” said Viktoria Skobodzinski, also a sophomore at Riverhead High School. “It was nice that the students were able to learn more about what legislators Krupski and Fleming do but also that they were able to learn more about vaping from us. This meeting really changed my perspective on local politics and I hope to get more involved!”

local problems require local solutions

The mission of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth and the Riverhead Youth Coalition is to engage collaborative partners in the planning, implementation and evaluation of strategies that prevent youth substance use. In 2013 and 2018, the coalition was awarded 5-year Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Grants through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Created by the Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, the DFC Support Program is the nation’s leading effort to mobilize communities to prevent youth substance use and provides grants to community coalitions to strengthen the infrastructure among local partners to create and sustain a reduction in local youth substance use. For more information about the coalition, or to participate, please call Riverhead CAP at (631) 727-3722 or click here.