The Minnesota Department of Health has made it their mission to educate and warn students of the potential dangers of vaping. Recently, they launched a 'Hey Norm' campaign to encourage students to learn more and share that knowledge with friends.

Recently, they also presented the third year of the Escape the Vape Video Challenge, where both high school and middle school students are encouraged to make videos to keep vaping dangers top of mind.

The Minnesota Department of Health notes that though illegal, underage youth vaping continues to be a problem in Minnesota with 14% of 11th graders and 6% of 8th graders reporting using an e-cigarette during the last 30 days, according to the 2022 Minnesota Student Survey.

They want all students and their families to know that no amount of nicotine is safe for youth as it is highly addictive and can be toxic. Because the adolescent brain is still developing until about age 25, youth nicotine exposure can increase the risk of addiction to commercial tobacco products and other substances in the future.

An encouraging sign was that the 2023 Escape The Vape Challenge had the highest participation rate yet with students from more than 50 Minnesota schools creating 30-second videos to educate their peers on the dangers of vaping.

Once all 347 entries were collected, middle and high school students served as judges in two rounds of judging and helped select the 10 finalists. Public voting was then opened on March 24 and closed on April 6.

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Nearly 2,400 votes were cast to choose the winners for each division. Each group of 1st place winners will receive a $500 cash prize. Their schools will also each receive $500.

Here are this year's winners beginning with the High School Division:

1st place: It's Time to Rap Up Vaping by Cameron Bluhm, William Ryan, and Ryan Gostonczik, 11th and 12th grades, Plainview Elgin Millville High School.

2nd place: It's Not Worth It by Blake Stephens, 11th grade, Redwood Valley High School.

3rd place: Breaking News: The Dangers of Youth Vaping by Tavhidakhon Bakhtiyorzoda, 12th grade, Minnetonka High School.

The top three videos in the Middle School Divison were:

1st place: Inhaling the Stress by Camryn Anderson and Ellen Germundson, 8th grade, Forestview Middle School.

2nd place: The Process of Making a Vape by Abbie Buchanan, 8th grade, Hastings Middle School.

3rd place: Vaping is the Villain by Ryan Larson, Anabelle Holcomb-Smith, and Henry Olsen, 8th grade, Forestview Middle School.

Congratulations to the winning videos and to all the students who submitted entries. Special kudos to White Bear Lake Central Middle School which had 83 students enter the contest. That makes them the school with the highest percentage of student participation, which earns them a $1000 cash prize.

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