By Joanne McQuarrie

[email protected]

With its launch of a youth poster contest, Take a Breath: Teen Voices on Tobacco & Vaping, on October 1, Interior Health (IH) is asking teens in the region for their perspective.

In Take a Breath, teens enrolled in grades eight to 12 are invited to submit an original artwork in the form of a poster in one of five themes.

The themes include important facts about smoking and vaping; the importance of ceremonial tobacco; strategies used by tobacco and vaping companies to promote their products; how these products impact teens’ lives; and the environmental impact of tobacco and vaping.

The contest was developed by the tobacco and vapour reduction team at IH to be a new approach for engaging with youth in meaningful conversations about tobacco use and vaping and how it affects them and their friends, family, school, community and environment.

“Our goal is to understand, in an unbiased way, youth perspective,” said Jered Dennis, tobacco and vapour reduction coordinator, tobacco and vapour prevention and control, population health, Interior Health. 

The team worked in collaboration with teens from the McCreary Centre Society to develop the parameters of the contest and they will also serve as judges in selecting the winners. 

“It’s for youth, by youth,” Dennis said. “They’re going to judge the posters based on four criteria, with a score of 40: 1. Scientific content; 2. impact and persuasiveness – how well does the entry grab… attention and how persuasive is the images and the facts within it?;
3. Creativity; 4. Presentation – is it readable (with) correct spelling, grammar punctuation?”

The point of the criteria is to “give some structure to it, but leave it up to youth to assess”, Dennis said.

Teens have until November 15 to submit their entries for a chance to win a $150 gift card of their choice. They can send one poster for each of the five categories if they choose to. 

The winning entries will be professionally printed and, Dennis said, “provided to the youth’s school – the creator (of the winning poster)”. 

Emails were sent to 130, 135 schools about the contest, and with that number, Dennis said due to the cost and not knowing what each school’s plans are, the winning entries (which will be professionally printed) will be “provided to the youth’s school – the creator (of the winning poster)”. All other schools will have access to the posters through Interior Health’s website, which can be printed at their school.

The artwork and messages of the winning posters will be celebrated and recognized by being professionally printed and posted in schools and communities across the IH region.

 The 2022 international tobacco control policy evaluation project (ITC) youth BC showed 15 per cent of BC youth age 16 – 19 had smoked cigarette in the past 12 months; 23 per cent of BC youth age 16 – 19 had vaped in the past 12 months. Reasons for using e-cigarettes/vaping (top nine reasons, past 30-day vapers aged 16-19, Canada 2017-2021 N+4869) – fun: 47 per cent stress: 37 per cent; flavour: 35 per cent; curious: 32 per cent; nicotine: 28 per cent; acceptance: 20 per cent; less harmful to me: 19 per cent; cannabis: 15 per cent; less harm to others: 14 per cent. 

Smoking rates for BC and Canada (all ages), 2017: 15.6 per cent smoking prevalence in BC; 15.1 per cent smoking prevalence in Canada.

A BC adolescent health survey showed Youth were more likely to have vaped in the past month than to have ever tried smoking tobacco (27 per cent vs. 19 per cent). Rural-based youth were more likely than those from urban areas to have vaped (33 per cent vs. 27 per cent). However, unlike tobacco use, where youth in the Interior were as likely to have smoked as those in the northern and Vancouver Island regions, youth in the Interior were the most likely to have vaped. In the month before taking the survey, six per cent of youth had both vaped and smoked cigarettes; 21 per cent had vaped and not smoked cigarettes; and one per cent had smoked cigarettes and not vaped. Among youth who smoked tobacco in the past month, around half had been smoking for at least two years, including 19 per cent who had first smoked at least four years earlier.