Inigo Communications and the Loyola Public Health Club are partnering to launch an anti-vaping campaign for the American Heart Association (AHA) to circulate in Maywood, IL, home to Loyola’s Medical Center.
The program strives to educate the public about the dangers of smoking and push for continued bans, including taxing e-cigarettes at the same rates as traditional tobacco and the ban of menthol cigarettes and cigars, according to Alex Meixner, director of communication advocacy in Chicago for the AHA.
E-cigarettes are small devices used to inhale aerosols that typically hold nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Vaping refers to when a person inhales the vapor created when the device heats up and vaporizes the chemical liquid inside the device.
Inigo Communications is Chicago’s first student-run communications agency, according to the Inigo Communications website. The company promotes different products and ideas through partnerships, and “offer a variety of services that include public relations, social media, advertising, video creation, content creation, internal communications and more,” according to its website.
The Public Health Club (PHC) is a student organization based at Loyola “focused on education, service, and professional development in order to train the next generation of public health professionals,” according to the Public Health Club Facebook page.
“The campaign will discourage the use of tobacco products among Maywood residents by educating the community through print, social media and other materials powered by data and insights from the PHC,” Inigo’s press release about the campaign said. “These materials aim to empower the Maywood community to take control of their community’s health and their own.”
Inigo Communications and the Public Health Club declined to comment to The Phoenix beyond what’s in the press release.
Meixner said support in communities was essential in passing the federal law to raise the age of purchasing tobacco to 21 and said he hopes to see the same effect on the ban of flavored products.
The Tobacco 21 law was officially signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 20, 2019, and helped raise the federal minimum age of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21. This law includes cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes, according to the US Food and Drug Administration website.
The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance to ban the sale of all flavored vaping products in early September, but excluded menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, according to Meixner.
“Maywood is a great example where we’ve been working to focus on tobacco products within that community as a public health priority,” Meixner said.
In the past years, e-cigarette and vaping companies have begun incorporating a wider variety of flavors into the devices that are useful for a younger audience or people who may not like the original flavorings of cigarettes, according to Dr. Bradford Bemiss, pulmonologist and Critical Care Medicine Assistant Professor at the Loyola Medical Center.
“The fact that you can get a rootbeer flavored e-cigarette liquid is certainly going to be appealing to people who don’t like the flavor of cigarettes,” Dr. Bemiss said. “They may be willing to try new flavors or try it out for the first time because of the flavorings, which makes e-cigarettes so dangerous.”
Though Loyola’s Wellness Center isn’t directly involved with this particular campaign, the university has also been working to combat rising vape usage among students.
Loyola has seen a rise in the number of students who vape in the past couple of years. In 2019, the Phoenix reported on a 2018 survey among Loyola undergraduates that “revealed a seven percent increase in use of e-cigarettes at least once in the last 30 days compared to 2016,” according to Mary Duckett, the health educator at Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus Wellness Center.
“From 2016 and 2018, there was a big jump in vaping use among Loyola students,” Duckett said. “That was when we saw it as an issue and something we need to address.”
Due to the increase in the numbers revealed in the survey, the Wellness Center started focusing more on educating students and helping prevent vaping, according to Joan Holden, director of Loyola’s Wellness Center.
The staff at the Wellness Center, including both adults and students, are trained in special screening, intervention and referrals to treatment, according to Holden. This includes nurses over on the medical side of the Wellness Center and also motivational interviewing with the health educators, Duckett said.
“We talk about what they want to do moving forward and talk about gradual steps,” Duckett said. “We talk to students who want to quit but aren’t really sure how to do so.”
The AHA believes that student to student conversations and the use of social media and marketing will play a large role in convincing users, Meixner said.
“Our partnership with the Public Health Club is so important and valuable because if we have the help of folks that have lived this a few years ago when they were in high school and see it on campus now, they will have a better feel with how to combat that audience,” Meixner said.