With the nationwide uproar about vaping and e-cigarettes that have led to many deaths and have sent many to the hospital with severe pulmonary problems, the University of Montana is taking direct action this weekend and into next week.

UM Communications Director Paula Short said on Friday that a UM student has taken the lead in the first ever vape turn-in drive.

“We are excited that this effort is actually organized by a University of Montana student,” said Short. “Bobby Sonsteng is a senior majoring in community health. He reached out to the Curry Health Center and said ‘what can we do to try to discourage use of vaping pens and e-cigarettes, and also what can we do to educate and motivate or even incentivize them to consider a cessation program or to quit vaping?”

Short said the concern is growing throughout the nation and here in Montana after the first confirmed death in the state from vaping.

“The University of Montana is a tobacco free campus, but to have one of our own students come forward and say what can we do?” she said. “This event is scheduled over several days and it’s an opportunity for UM students to turn in vaping pens or e-cigarettes in exchange for gift cards from various Missoula businesses. They can also be entered into a raffle for an Apple watch or some Beats headphones by Dr. Dre.”

Short said the prizes are a great incentive, but the purpose of the event goes deeper.

“We went to help students if they want to cease using tobacco or nicotine products, and we have resources on campus if they want to do that,” she said. “Maybe the first step is to turn in that vaping pen.”

Short said the first opportunity is coming on Saturday at Washington Grizzly Stadium.

“During the ‘Tobacco-Free’ Griz game, from 11:00 a.m. till halftime there will be opportunities to turn in those vape pens,” she said. “We have events going on in the Adams Center, at the Lohmannson Center on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, as well as at the University Center. We’re really proud of this student-led effort for better health on campus.”

Governor Steve Bullock declared a few weeks ago that a statewide ban on flavored e-cigarettes would go into effect on October 22, however a district court judge in Hamilton issued an order to stop the ban.


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