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GBHS students lead effort to stop vaping
Students support ‘New You’ health campaign
MacKenzie Drewel and Brad Beck
GBHS student Brad Beck, left, signs an online petition to stop vaping, while HOSA - Future vice-president Alayna Irwin and president MacKenzie Drewel, right, man the table during lunch Thursday at the high school to promote the student-led anti-vaping campaign. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

A group of Great Bend High School students is leading an effort at the high school and middle school levels to stop “vaping,” the inhaling of vapor-based tobacco products through electronic cigarettes.

As part of the effort, students with the GBHS HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) - Future Health Professionals are taking their lunch hours Thursday and Friday to ask fellow students to sign petitions as a pledge to either quit the practice, or not begin in the first place.

GBHS teacher Andrea Stalcup, the chapter’s sponsor, said the campaign is completely student-led and student-driven. As the group planned its activities for the year and looked at taking on a health-focused initiative in January, they decided to take on the issue of vaping because of its growing impact among teens. 

The group’s student president, MacKenzie Drewel, said the effort is part of their January “New You” health campaign.

“Our whole mission is to get people to either stop or make the change, to be the first to change that and not vape,” Drewel said.

Alayna Irwin, vice president of the GBHS chapter of HOSA and one of the students helping lead the petition campaign Thursday afternoon, said if the campaign can get even one student to stop vaping, or to never start, then she feels like the campaign will have been successful.

“They’re not contributing to the industry, they’re not partaking in the health risks,” Irwin said. “Just one person makes a difference.”

As part of the campaign, HOSA members are asking fellow students to sign two different youth-led online petitions through the websites and The first petition asks the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban all flavored tobacco products. The belief, according to the petition, is that tobacco companies use flavored products in particular as a way to attract younger users to its products.

The other, said Irwin, asks students to support Congressional legislation ensuring “that all Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees have access to the full array of proven tobacco cessation treatments at this critical time, when health experts are warning that smoking and vaping can worsen COVID-19. It will help to reduce the glaring health disparities facing our nation, save lives and improve health among Medicaid and CHIP enrollees, and reduce health care costs,” according to the online petition.

Along with the petitions, students were asked to put their signatures on a poster encouraging them to #BeTheFirst to quit. Each student had their picture taken with one of several colorful, positive messages promoting education and awareness about the vaping issue, and encouraging students not to engage in tobacco use.

In addition to the lunch hour petition campaign, the group undertook additional efforts to promote awareness on the issue, for both the middle school and high school.

Earlier, in January, students in the group produced short educational videos for teachers to show students in to discuss the dangers of vaping, in conjunction with a short classroom activity for teachers to use to help educate their students. 

Once the petition campaign is done at the high school, HOSA students will produce a 7-8 minute video to share with GBMS students about how the campaign went at the high school, and to discourage the use of vaping products at the middle school level. In addition to messages from Drewel, Irwin and other group members, the video will also include the pictures taken of GBHS students during the petition campaign Thursday and Friday.

Irwin said addressing it at the middle school level is important because the group feels like this is where the problem often starts.

“When we were in middle school, a lot of this stuff just skyrocketed. It was new, it was ‘cool,’ and it became a big problem within our schools,” Irwin said.

Stalcup said she’s proud of her students for standing up and leading the effort to stop tobacco use among teens, because teens are often a target market for tobacco companies. She’s also proud of the high school students for being willing to be a voice for younger students at the middle school.

“I’m so excited, we’ve got an ambitious group,” Stalcup said. “The fact that they’re standing up and saying, ‘let’s make a difference,’ it’s encouraging,” she said.

Stalcup said the group currently has 56 students. Moving forward, the group hopes to work with The Center For Counseling and the #ZeroReasonsWhy suicide prevention campaign beginning in March.

Jamie Patton
HOSA - Future Health Professionals president MacKenzie Drewel, left, takes a picture of GBHS student Jaime Patton, who displays a positive message about quitting the use of tobacco products. The pictures will be part of a short video the group will share with students at Great Bend Middle School after the campaign. - photo by Daniel Kiewel