As the Montana State Department of Public Health and Human Services announces the first death associated with vaping in the state, students at the University of Montana have organized an event to increase awareness about the health impacts of e-cigarettes.

Starting this Saturday, the UM Curry Health Center will host a drive encouraging 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.

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

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

“Our students have been extremely proactive in raising awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes on campus,” said Linda Green, Curry Health Center wellness director. “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.”

In response to the nationwide outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping, including deaths, the Centers for Disease Control recommends refraining from using all vaping products. UM is encouraging students who vape to quit.

“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.”

UM students who turn in vape pens or e-cigarettes during the campaign 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 this Saturday.

Dates and times for the drive include”

  • 11 a.m. to halftime Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Tobacco-Free Griz Game.
  • 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, at the Adams Center.
  • 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Lommasson Center.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the UMHM space in the University Center.