The battle against teen tobacco use has been raging for decades, and today the fight continues. The Canli Coalition has taken to the front lines in a headstrong effort to combat the predatory marketing campaigns waged by big tobacco with a powerful and haunting message: They’re targeting you. Rae O’Leary, founder of the Canli Coalition, along with Missouri Breaks, travels throughout the community to share critical information with the youth of Cheyenne River and beyond. Since 2009, the Canli Coalition has worked to improve policies and practices regarding tobacco use both on the CRST Reservation and state-wide in South Dakota. Three main goals have been established and tackled during their 11 years of advocacy: Make CRST Smoke-Free Indoor Public Places (2009), Protect CRST from Secondhand Smoke (2012), and Supporting Tobacco-Free Choices for 7 Generations (2016 and ongoing).
The E.A.G.L.E. Center had the privilege of hosting Rae O’Leary, of the Canli Coalition as a special guest speaker for Unity Circle the morning of February 7th, 2020. (Unity Circle is a weekly gathering at the E.C. where students learn about non-curricular life skills.) Students learned about the dangers of vaping, the newest and most popular form of tobacco use among young people. The health risks involved in vaping tobacco and THC products are widely unknown, as the use of vape devices is still relatively new. Students watched testimonies from peers, explored different marketing techniques used by big tobacco, and studied the science behind how vaping works and why it is so harmful for vapers and for those exposed to second-hand “vapor”.
O’Leary and The Canli Coalition want all young people and adults to know the facts about vaping and ways to avoid starting and/or ways to quit vaping. “If you are curious about vaping, educate yourself! Go to www.thetruth.com or www.808novape.com or just search online for exploding vapes, nicotine poisoning or overdose, popcorn lung, or chemicals in e-juice. When you are offered a vape, help out your friend by sharing a fact you learned about the many dangers of vaping. If you are already vaping and want to quit, there are many resources to help. The SD QuitLine offers coaching or DIY (do it yourself) options to help people as young as 13 quit vaping, smoking or chewing. You can also sign up for a quitting program for teens by texting “DitchJUUL” to 88709.” She strongly encourages any and all adults who support CRST to also join the movement to combat this epidemic: “It is critically important for parents, teachers, aunties and uncles to talk to the kids in their life about vaping. If it’s helpful, use the Lakota values to tell them you want them to respect their body and have the courage to say no to vaping.”