Newton teens take vaping epidemic into their own hands with lobbying effort

NEWTON, Mass. — They can't vote yet, but a group of eighth-graders didn't let a technicality like that get in the way of trying to change state law on teen vaping.

"They're little things we're doing. But they add up," Newton eighth grader Samir Travers told Boston 25 News.

That addition happening at the Bigelow Middle School in Newton. This spring, eighth-graders studied civic engagement in social studies class and put it into practice with an on-going state lobbying campaign to address an issue they found sadly close to home.

"Kids know which kids are doing it," Bigelow Middle teacher Andrew Swan said. "They find empty pods out in the yard. And let somebody know around the school. So we can't be naive about this any longer."

The students pretty much knew vaping was a problem, but they verified it by taking a survey at their school which produced some troubling results.

"Every eighth grader we surveyed knew someone who had Juuled and a significant portion of sixth and seventh graders also knew someone," Travers said.

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill are considering regulations to stop the statewide sale of flavored vape products and another amendment would slap a steep tax on nicotine devices.

But the Bigelow eighth graders are calling on legislators to do more. They want the language to address nicotine salts, which their graph shows enhances the absorption of the addictive substance.

They also want regulations to prevent the easy purchase of vape products online by teens, which they tested.

"They just had to put in an e-mail address and they were then able to go through and pretend to buy one," student Audrey Pozen said.

The larger lessons the students learned: we are the government.

"Every single person here can do something, should do something. I don't think it's just like the people who are in the government," student Katie Larson said.

And age is no barrier to activism.

"They've only just gotten started, so when I think of where they were two or three months ago and where they could be two or three years from now, look out," Swan said.