SALISBURY — Back in the day, parents fretted over their kids smoking cigarettes. The unhealthy habit claims the lives of over 480,000 people per year in the United States according to the Center of Disease Control’s website. For years, cigarettes were seen as a main concern in causing disease, however, as time as passed, there is a new danger that has now swept the nation: vaping.
To inform kids and teenagers about the perils of vaping, Rowan County’s Youth Substance Use Prevention Coalition (YSUP Rowan) is partnering with the Rowan County Health Department, Waterworks Visual Arts Center, Healthy Rowan, and the Center for Prevention Services for an art contest where Rowan-Salisbury School System high school students can submit artwork that promotes an anti-vape message.
“Who is better to create the message other than youth? Because they know what attracts them and what message would make sense to get to them,” Project Director YSUP Rowan Pa Y. Xiong said. “Our goal is to put these final art pieces into schools as a communications campaign. Who is better to help us come up with the message besides high schoolers? Middle schoolers can look up to the high schooler’s messages. They’re the influencers to the younger ones.”
Xiong says this is the first time this contest is taking place and she hopes it’s not the last.
“We would love for it to be a continuing initiative in the future,” Xiong said.
When it comes to vaping, how the tobacco industry reaches teenagers and young people can be sneaky and deceptive. Besides spreading the word on the physical harm vaping causes, Xiong also emphasizes educating teenagers on why they may start taking it up, too.
“They’re mainly doing it for fun and they don’t know what goes behind it, like what’s in it. We don’t know what’s in it, it is not regulated by the FDA, so nobody knows what’s in those things. We want them to do their own research by participating in the art contest. Then they will know and learn how it impacts the youth,” Xiong said.
Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Tamara Sheffield is coalition member for YSUP Rowan and believes the art contest is a perfect approach to combat vaping.
“Vaping has increasingly become one of the biggest distractors in education. We don’t know the health risks still. What we’ve seen so far is way worse than anything else we could’ve imagined. I think getting high schoolers involved in an anti-campaign is a great place to start. Leveraging the creative outlets of art and through the different mediums,” Sheffield said. “I think embracing the creative side of kids against vaping, it couldn’t be a better partnership.”
The winner of the art contest wins $250, second place wins $150, and third place wins $100 courtesy of YSUP Rowan. The deadline to submit art is at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Any submissions can be mailed or delivered to: YSUP Rowan, 1322 South Fulton Street, Salisbury, NC 28144. A pop-up gallery including the top 10 entries will be on display at Waterworks Visual Arts Center from Jan. 8-27, 2024. A winners reception will take place on Jan. 18, 2024.
For more information, contact Pa Xiong at Pa@ysuprowan.org.