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Students at the University of Montana have organized an event to increase awareness about the health impacts of e-cigarettes, according to a release from the University of Montana.

The action follows the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services' announcement of the state's first death associated with vaping or e-cigarettes.

From Saturday through Wednesday, Oct. 26-30, the UM Curry Health Center will host a drive to encourage students to turn in their vape pens and e-cigarettes.

The event is organized by UM student Bobby Sonsteng, a senior majoring in community health, according to the release.

“We brainstormed some great ideas, and I felt compelled to take the lead on this project,” Sonsteng, who organized the drive with students in the Peers Reaching Out (PROs) program, said in the release. “I was inspired because I felt there is a need on our campus regarding information about vaping.”

UM students who turn in vape pens or e-cigarettes can receive a $5 gift card for various Missoula businesses and entry into a raffle to win an Apple Watch or Beats by Dre headphones.

Community members are encouraged to participate during the tobacco-free football game on Saturday, Oct. 26.

The Curry Health Center also offers free Quit Kits to students looking to quit all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, during regular business hours.

Dates and times for the drive are as follows:

• 11 a.m.-halftime Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Tobacco-Free Griz Game.

• 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, at the Adams Center.

• 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Lommasson Center.

• 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the UMHM space in the University Center.

“Our students have been extremely proactive in raising awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes on campus,” Linda Green, Curry Health Center wellness director, said in the release. “This drive gives our campus a way to encourage healthy habits for students and the Missoula community while raising awareness about the potential health risks of solvents and flavorings in vaping liquids.”

According to UM’s most recent National College Health Assessment, the percent of UM students who reported daily e-cigarette use doubled in the past two years from 1.1% to 2.2%. Similarly, students who reported using e-cigarettes at least once in the past month more than doubled over the past two years, from 3.7% to 7.6%.

In response to the nationwide outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping, including deaths, the federal Centers for Disease Control recommends refraining from using all vaping products. UM is committed to creating a healthy environment for employees, students and visitors by supporting quitters and reducing the number of new smokers.

“Doctors are scrambling to find ways to treat these new pulmonary disorders that are connected to vaping, and it is proving how dangerous these e-cigs are,” Sonsteng said. “E-cigs are an unknown and scary habit, and we are here to help students take control of their lives and provide as much support as we can in the quitting process.”

For more information, call UM Curry Health Center’s Jessica Vizzutti at 406-243-6958 or email jessica.vizzutti@umontana.edu.

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