On Tuesday, the middle and high school students of Model Laboratory School stepped away from their typical day of curriculum to learn about vaping and mental health.

Sharonda Rose, MSN, RN, organized the Let's Talk program, focused on teaching the dangers of vaping to one's health. As EKU BSN Clinical Faculty for the Baccalaureate Nursing Program, she prepared senior-level nursing students to speak and conduct activities to inform students of vaping dangers.

According to the CDC, there have been 530 cases of lung injury and 7 deaths related to the use of e-cigarettes.

"The hopes of this program are to make our youth and community aware of this uprising issue and prevent it from worsening," Rose said.

High school and middle school students rotated among seven different breakout sessions in various locations around their school. The EKU nursing program partnered with Kentucky State Police and the Madison County Health Department to put on the event.

Mike Bowling, lieutenant with the electronic crime branch of Kentucky State Police, spoke to students about key ways to practice internet safety. He stated that approximately half of all students he speaks to are involved or affected by safety issues with technology and the internet, such as online bullying, harassment or solicitation.

He encouraged students or adults who are aware of dangerous situations or issues such as online solicitation to seek resources at kentuckystatepolice.org, netsmartz.org or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

A session about "popcorn lung" was conducted by nursing students Hannah Daria and Alexis Hatmaker, along with health department staff member David Eastham. Popcorn lung is the nickname for a condition that damages your smallest airways. Daria asked how many students play sports. When most raised their hands, she pointed out how important running is to most sports. "What's your coach going to do if you can't run?"

To illustrate the difficulty of breathing with popcorn lung, Daria and Hatmaker also had students attempt walking across the lawn while breathing through a narrow straw. They pointed out that while vaping can affect your life right now, in sports, vaping might affect you later on in life, leading to dependence on oxygen just to survive.

In another breakout session, Kentucky State Trooper Robert Purdy spoke about the corporation Juul, which presents itself as an alternative to smoking. He dispelled some of the health myths about Juul and vaping. He also asked thought-provoking questions such as "Do you think Juul is in business to help people quit smoking?"

In addition to teaching specifically about vaping, some sessions also covered mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and coping skills. High school students mentioned yoga, finding a hobby, video games and exercise as some of the healthy coping mechanisms they know.

The nursing students in this session discussed how many young people are turning to vaping as a dangerous means of coping with stress.

Tyler Flores, one of the nursing students, took the high schoolers through a breathing exercise called the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This practice can be useful for young people when they're anxious or upset because it helps them to focus on something other than their anxious thoughts, specifically their five senses.

The Let's Talk program will take place again at Madison Southern High School on Oct. 22, and will follow a similar format.

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