Arkansas’s first vaping summits are being planned for this week in partnership with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will host the two events, with the first scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday at Children’s Hall on the Arkansas Children’s Hospital campus.
"Vaping is being advertised as much safer than cigarettes, but it is not being advertised as safe. And safe it is not. That is why we wanted to host this first ever summit to address these concerns," Rutledge said.
According to the hospital's Chief Operating Officer Chanda Chacon, they're advocating policies that will help protect children across the state.
"We think this collaboration will be helpful for us as we work for policies that help improve the health of Arkansas’s children," Chacon said.
The second event will be held Wednesday at Bentonville High School. Both are open for anyone who wants to learn more about youth vaping, especially educators, parents, healthcare providers, law enforcement officials and lawmakers.
Chacon says there will be several panels that feature speakers from different professional backgrounds. Physicians, educators, and leaders in industry are included as panelists. Rutledge will act as the moderator for the discussions. Both events will be educational and informative opportunities, Chacon says, to discuss how schools are addressing vaping issues and what opportunities are available to help solve the problem of underage vaping.
Rutledge says the summit will conclude with a policy panel to discuss solving this crisis among teens. She also says most of the enforcement actions against underage tobacco usage are enforced in schools. This is one reason why Rutledge hopes educators will attend the summit.
"Solutions will have to come from the schoolhouse to the statehouse," Rutledge said.
The attorney general says she fears the consequences of using e-cigarette products that will be faced by Generation Z, which is made up of people between the ages of seven and 22.
"The health challenges will not be seen 20 or 30 years from now, they are going to be seen two days from now, two months from now, two years from now," Rutledge said.
The Attorney General’s Office has started a Gen Z Nic Free campaign to address the vape usage among Generation Z. Rutledge said that she does not want kids to hurt their lungs and be "nic sick," a term used by young people when they take in too much nicotine.
"That’s why we have launched Gen Z Nic Free," Rutledge said, "That way we can target today’s youth so they can be tomorrow’s leaders."
Rutledge wants Arkansans to know that it is not too late to register for the summit. The Youth Vaping Summits are free to the public, but space is limited. To register and receive more information visit the Attorney General's website.