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Hubbard students ‘steered straight’

HUBBARD — Steered Straight, an organization that uses motivational speaking as a tool to warn young adults about poor decision making, spoke to Hubbard High School students, parents and community members Tuesday to warn them about the consequences of vaping.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, have quickly become a fad among the younger crowd. E-cigs were originally developed with the intent to help adults try to quit smoking, but high school and college students have quickly caught on to the trend. According to a September CNN article, the rate of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders who used e-cigs or vapes has doubled from 2017 to 2019. The article also states that in 2019, one in four 12th-grade students have said they have used one of these devices.

Steered Straight aims to bring that number down — drastically.

Founded in 2000 by Michael DeLeon, a successfully acclimated ex-offender, Steered Straight uses his story as an opportunity to give young adults a step in the right direction, as well as an opportunity to learn the consequences of poor decision making.

“A lot of people think it’s no big deal … it was invented to help people quit smoking. It wasn’t. It was invented to hook the next generation on nicotine,” DeLeon said.

The night’s event was called “Vaping Me Crazy,” and the overall goal of the evening was to articulate the reason behind the targeting of youth with alcohol, nicotine and marijuana; shedding some light about the most prevalent vaping trend known as “Juuling;” explaining how nicotine and marijuana have changed in nature, substance and marketing; as well as detail the signs of substance abuse.

Throughout the school day, DeLeon spoke with the students and said he feels they got the message.

“You’re getting a little bit more serious, intense, and mature with high school students, but it’s incredible. The feedback has been incredible,” DeLeon said.

Jade Eilers, Miss Ohio High School America, also spoke to the students. DeLeon believes that having someone close to their age gave the students the understanding of the dangers of vaping.

The evening, however, had a less than ideal turnout. Only about 20 parents and community members were in the audience for the speech. According to DeLeon, the fact that only a handful of people attended is due in part to the ignorance many people have toward the epidemic. He said if parents and community members knew exactly the dangers of vaping, the auditorium would be standing room only.

One of the parents in attendance, however, came because he was concerned, but also because he wants to find a way to help. Dave Coxson of Hubbard is part of an organization called the City Transformation team. The organization works with police officers and he said he he wants to bring residents and community members to an understanding of what the dangers are.

“I think it’s a new trend or another way kids or people doing this destroy their lives,” Coxson said. ” I’m interested in helping with awareness so there’s a solution we can discover as a city.”

DeLeon drew from his own personal experiences to help give guidance to parents. He also gave a warning. Ohio is statistically the worst state in the U.S. for drug overdose deaths and he believes that electronic devices are going to be the newest drug delivery system for every drug in America.

“America fell asleep at the wheel. The FDA has failed us, the federal government has failed us, and these kids do not understand the seriousness of the issue,” DeLeon said.

nhawthorne@tribtoday.com

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