ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — When Fairport native Alannah Dalton was in high school, most of her friends vaped.
“They had the juul […] what a lot of people people called the ‘starter,'” she said. “The one that kind of targeted a younger demographic first.”
17 at the time, Dalton said that because it was around her constantly, it seemed safe enough. She recalled kids she knew whose parents would buy them things like juul pods and e-cigarettes.
Her junior year, Dalton started vaping.
“I don’t know that I ever thought, ‘Woah, I’m so cool for doing this.’ But it definitely was like, ‘Oh, there’s no big deal,'” she explained. “It didn’t process in my brain — and, I guess, all the other kids brains.”
While she enjoyed it for a while, as Dalton neared graduation and then college, she wanted to quit. So she did — slowly decreasing the amount of nicotine in her vape until there was none left.
Now 21, Dalton is studying to be an English teacher — and she just won a $5,000 scholarship for her approach to anti-vaping initiatives.
The scholarship was given out by Truth Initiative — the organization behind “truth,” the aggressive and incredibly effective public education campaign against tobacco and vape products. To celebrate young people who are making a positive impact in their community’s health, Truth Initiative awards $5,000 IMPACT scholarships each year.
“I actually saw one of truth’s ads when I was [vaping] in high school,” Dalton said. “I thought their ads were funny, so I followed them on Instagram.”
Dalton continued to follow their account after she quit. When she saw the group had a scholarship available, she applied, sharing her own experience and saying how she hopes to help combat vaping in her future role as a teacher.
Currently, Dalton student teaches kids between seventh and twelfth grade. She said just like when she was in school, she sees students sneaking off to the bathroom to vape during class, throwing around not-so-secret code words like “drip drop.”
“Kids might forget that I’m 21. I know the terms,” she laughed. “I think sadly, it’s easier to hide them — cause they’re so small […] It’s just sad, because I get the sense that these companies, they know what they’re doing. They’re not stupid, you know?”
Back in 2020, the FDA banned flavored Juul pods, taking mango and mint flavors off the shelf and out of the hands of underaged users. And this past summer, Juuls were banned entirely. But that hasn’t stopped underaged users from turning to other brands and devices as they hit the market.
When asked if Dalton remembers any truth ads, she said she couldn’t. But what did stick in her memory on all their social media posts was the comments section, full of presumably underaged users commenting on their posts. While the comments mostly made fun of the campaign, Dalton said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s sticking, because kids are seeing these ads and, they’re engaging with the posts,” she said. “It stuck with me when I saw those ads, and I was making fun of it — it stuck with me.”
Dalton said that she does hope to help combat vaping in her role as a teacher and student teacher, but it’s a difficult topic.
“How do you approach kids without sounding like a bossy mom figure, telling kids what to do?” she said.
When asked what message she’d give to her former self, Dalton said the following:
“It’s not worth it. There are other ways to feel good, to feel included, to feel a thrill — there are other ways to feel those things than using nicotine, a chemical. There are other things that make you feel good and better than nicotine.”
The truth campaign formed in 2000, and has been repeatedly commended for their success. In 2008, one study found that the organization was directly responsible for preventing almost half a million young people from smoking. The organization “re-launched” in 2014 rebranding their efforts as empowering young people today to be the generation that ends smoking.
If you or a young person you know are struggling with nicotine addiction, learn more about quitting at truth.com.