Minnesota Opinion: It's time to confront under-aged vaping

From the editorial: It’s good to see the health department is trying new inventive ways to reach young people to inform them of the drawbacks of vaping and e-cigarettes.

Stock photo / Pixabay

Vaping in schools continues to be a problem.

Although the legal age for purchasing and consuming tobacco products in Minnesota — which include vaping products — is 21, underaged students are finding ways to vape in and out of school.

Minnesota Opinion editorial
Minnesota Opinion
Minnesota Opinion editorial

The Osakis School District, to its credit, is confronting the issue. When students are caught vaping, they are presented with options to help them quit. High school principal Brad Hoffarth talked to the school board at its meeting earlier this month.

“We're setting them up with Minnesota Department of Health resources, and sharing that information with parents as well," Hoffarth told the board. "The scary thing is, it starts as early as seventh grade. We wonder where they're coming from. In some cases they're coming from home. In other cases they're coming from friends, older friends, whatever they may be."

Hoffarth continued, "We've had situations where there are Visa cards purchased, and then you can make online orders regardless of your age. It's an all-around bad deal."


Hoffrath said the most common vaping devices the district has seen are Loon MAAX disposables, which have been found in the trash, and which some students also try to flush down the toilet, Hoffarth said.

He added that the school recently found multiple devices and confiscated the items. “The saddest part that I witnessed (was) I had multiple students tell me they were addicted," he said. "For them to get through the day they have to do it."

What’s happening in the Osakis district is happening all around the state.

According to the 2022 Minnesota Student Survey, about 14% of Minnesota’s 11th grade students and more than 2% of middle school students use e-cigarettes. The health department points out that e-cigarette use exposes these students to the harmful effects of commercial tobacco and the potential for a life-long nicotine habit.

The tobacco industry uses marketing tactics that target young people, such as celebrity endorsements and selling flavors that appeal to youth. To combat this, the Minnesota Health Department has launched a creative marketing campaign called “ Hey Norm ” ( that informs teens about the issue of vaping.

Picking up on the popular “low-budget infomercial” approach, the campaign encourages teens to call or text Norm at 1-833-HEY-NORM to get advice about how to start “the vape talk” with their peers.

“We know that nicotine found in e-cigarettes is highly addictive and can lead to significant physical and mental health impacts,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham. “Teens know some of the harmful side effects, but they may not actively seek out information, and they may not feel comfortable talking about nicotine use with friends or trusted adults. We hope this campaign prompts them to learn more and share that knowledge with their friends.”

There’s also a website, Room to Breathe , with data and resources about the harms of nicotine and vaping, ways to get involved and access to quit support tailored for teens. The anti-vaping campaign is featured in mobile billboards, bulletins, posters, transit system signage, online video, social content and streaming audio.


It’s good to see the health department is trying new inventive ways to reach young people to inform them of the drawbacks of vaping and e-cigarettes. But an even better solution is for parents to have a straight-up talk with their teens about the topic, how to handle peer pressure and how to avoid the nicotine trap.

This Minnesota Opinion editorial is the viewpoint of the Alexandria Echo Press Editorial Board. Send feedback to:

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