Guest Column: Booth aimed to raise awareness about vaping

Published 11:26 pm Friday, August 17, 2018

Live United by Jenny Hendrickson

Jenny Hendrickson


Working in the prevention world is new to me; however, I have worked in the field of addiction over 18 years. Of those 18 years, I spent 17 years working in a residential chemical dependency setting.

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I often say addiction is a like a big black hole. For many, it’s hard to realize when they have crossed that imaginary line into addiction. For most addicts, it takes consequences such as run-ins with the law, getting on probation, loss of friendships or relationships due to lack of trust, health issues, employment problems — the list could go on and on.

I spent a couple of years working as a family counselor, educating families about addiction. I would ask families to share: Who is an addict? Who is an alcoholic? A common response from family members would be, “An addict is someone who shoots up drugs, or an alcoholic is the bum drinking from the brown paper sack.”

Rarely did I hear the response of “My son or daughter who smokes pot” or “the successful business-person drinking a glass of wine.”

As an educator, I could have vital conversations with these families. We would talk about self-care and what that looks like, which includes not enabling the addict.

This was a tough sell to a parent, a wife/husband or a child of an addict. Typically, they are so focused on getting their loved one back to the person they were before drugs and alcohol took over.

They rode the highs and lows of addiction with the addict, trying to see that light come back to the addict’s eyes. Families become desperate as well, often lying or covering up for the addict and keeping secrets.

Taking a step out of that world and entering into the prevention world has been a breath of fresh air. My first large event was having a booth at the Freeborn County Fair. We designed a looking station all about vaping.

I must admit I was not well informed on this topic, but I soon realized it was a hot topic. The point of this was to raise the community’s perception and build awareness.

Our education focused on where e-cigarettes can be purchased, who the e-cigarette company is targeting, what are the harms, what is the cost, what do the devices look like and lastly to inform that it’s not just water.

We reached a number of youth and community members during the fair. Overall, we had great discussions on this topic. More kids talked about the harms and referenced vaping can cause popcorn lung compared to adults that stopped by our booth.

I encourage any reader, if you have suggestions on what you think our community needs education about, to reach out to me at Also feel free to attend our ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug) meeting held the first Thursday of the month at 9 a.m. at the government center.

Jenny Hendrickson is project coordinator for the Family Services Collaborative.