List of Photos
Part of our community engagement project was to write messages on the sidewalk and in the public park. A lot of the false advertising is that vaping reduces your stress or it can help you relax or it can help your mental health when in reality it just increases your stress, and problems with your mental health. And the people who benefit from our mental health problems are tobacco companies. They create advertisements that are bright and colorful. They make ads with cool characters or designs that are clearly targeted towards youth or even the flavors that they put in the vapes.
If we get to talk to someone in power, we would want them to know that the flavors are actually hurting youth because it’s getting them more attracted to the vapes and more addicted to the vapes. We want them to hear that addiction shouldn’t taste like candy and that youths know and will fight against these messages. We know their tactics and that they need to do a better job at protecting the youth. We know it is designed this way to target us. It is made with us in mind so we think it is made for us.
Vaping can take away our youth. Like our friends, having to worry about just when they’re getting their next hit all the time. They are not going to basketball games, going to dances, they are not being active, going out to parties with us because that’s all they can think about. Now, it’s children as young as eight years old who are being targeted. These kids are big tobacco bosses’ grandkids or their own children or their nieces or nephews who are also being affected. If they have power maybe they could keep their kids safe.
This photo is from a health conference. At first glance, it is just a self-care bag. There’s makeup, there’s bracelets, scrunchies, there are even cute little stickers in there, but if you look closely at the top left within that bag, there is also a yellow vape. Bags like these are easy to order off Etsy, off of the internet, and there are no real security checks to see if the purchaser was above the age of 21. Yes, a lot of work has been done to prevent youth tobacco and nicotine usage but look at how easy it is for our peers to order that online. Anybody can. More work needs to be done to cover up those loopholes. The sales of these vaping devices should be more closely monitored and companies should have more regulations set on how they distribute their products and where they’re able to distribute their products.
Most sellers do not ID at vape shops and if they do, people just buy fake IDs. It can also be bought from another peer who’s selling them out of their backpacks at school. It can also be older siblings, family members, friends who are of age going to the shop to buy vapes for them. You can get them online too. Really anywhere you can think of vapes are sold, at the corner of the park, it can happen anywhere.
Big tobacco is making us think that this is safe, this is not as harmful as it actually is, and they’re making these lies. That’s all we know and we need to realize how
powerful big tobacco actually is. It’s a trillion-dollar industry, billion dollars across the world, not just in the U.S. but in this state too. The tobacco industry spends somewhere around $200 million on tobacco advertisement in Texas. And to counteract that, there’s a few million going towards advocacy against it. So we’re very at odds here. So it’s really up to us.
That’s why we were the ones who were spearheading the Texas 21 legislature as Youth Ambassadors alongside the Tobacco-Free Kids movement. We are taking one step at a time because a lot of people before Tobacco 21 passed told us, “Oh, that’s not going to stop people, that’s not going to stop people at all,” but guess what, it has helped. So, even though people are saying, “Oh, that law won’t do anything.” Well, yes it does. Maybe if it doesn’t affect you, it’ll help somebody else and that’s what we’re working towards.
This is a necklace with the picture of my great-grandmother. She started smoking when she was 14 years old and she ended up quitting just a little bit before I was born. But towards the end of her life she had a bunch of complications, she had multiple strokes. This is how tobacco affects my daily life. I have to live without her. I don’t get to see her every Sunday like we usually did. Her use of tobacco really didn’t only affect her in the long run, it affected every single person in my family.
So I try to encourage my friends who do have parents or grandparents who do vape or smoke to just try to get them to stop. Because that’s the best way to get to them. When it’s somebody who’s close to you they will genuinely try to get you to stop doing that. Helping our families to quit smoking is as important as helping our peers and communities.
I’ve helped two people in my family quit smoking. My grandfather has completely quit smoking after smoking for 40 or 50 years, through my work and all that and just letting him know the dangers and stuff. But my grandma also quit smoking. My cousin, he’s slowly coming off smoking so the cigarettes are going from less and less and less and stuff.
Tobacco use is a generational issue. If your parents smoke, you’re more likely to use tobacco products also. It affects you through secondhand as well. My dad’s a smoker. He’s a very heavy smoker. He doesn’t have any teeth left. He has a lot of health problems. And his dad actually passed away from lung cancer. He had a tumor on his throat the size of a golf ball from smoking for so long. And then all three of his children went on to smoke. It definitely has a lot to do with family and can obviously affect generation to generation, for years and years.
This is a photo of a parking lot that needs constant repair for cracks in concrete. I just finished working out so I was exhausted and I’ve tripped so many times over that ledge right there because I’m not looking. You could definitely go rebuild your school and community but no matter how hard you try there’s always going to be that one thing with cracks to be fixed. When you think of it, we as a society, we just get so used to working around the problems, instead of addressing them or fixing them. We continue to just deal with it or we just continue to trip over that parking spot but what needs to happen is change. We need to work on fixing it. Somebody has to, something or someone has to take the step to fix it so we are not tripping over the parking spot anymore. We’re not really fixing the problem, we’re just overlooking it. We’re just going to just keep dealing with it, when really we need to take the time to fix it, instead of just accepting and moving on.
Let me tell y’all, the day that I took this picture was the worst day ever. First of all, I was barely running on gas, and by this point, I had to pull over at the gas station, and my tire had completely blown out. I was stuck in the middle of an unfamiliar place, and then there were all of these lights on; my car was basically failing me.
I see it like how tobacco products affect one’s life, like how I would imagine someone dealing with that type of addiction. This was a roadblock for me, an obstacle, and I was stranded. People who are involved in addiction to tobacco products would feel the same. The whole car is essentially ruined because of the tire. And now you’re stuck in one place, all because of one thing. You have a little bit of gas, you probably could have inched a little bit forward, but with the tire, you can’t go anywhere.
Once somebody is at that point with addiction, they just grab it and start vaping, and the lights go off in their brain. They just are lonely, they don’t feel the same anymore. They feel like they’re stuck somewhere; they can’t do anything. They feel like everything is falling apart and nothing is going the way that it should be. And I feel like this is a great representation of what’s going through someone’s mind, battling in their mind with addiction. And once they start using it, it’s hard to quit.
I’m sitting in my car, it’s completely pitch black. I’m on the side of this sketchy gas station and alone. You don’t know where you’re at, you don’t know the area. And once somebody vapes, they don’t know what they’re getting into. Once they put that foot into addiction, they don’t know what they’re doing. I feel like once you’re in this position, you’re sinking. You don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know how it’s going to end. You don’t know anything. You needed to lean on somebody, to rely on somebody else.
SAYWHAT! | Live Tobacco-free
Toll Free: 877.304.2727
Texas School Safety Center
ATTN: Say What Program
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX 78666
Say What! was created and designed by young people from across Texas and connects students interested in eliminating tobacco from their schools and communities. The Say What! movement is funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services through a contract with the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University.