Programs to combat Colorado’s youth vaping crisis receive millions in new funding from Juul settlement
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Programs to combat Colorado’s youth vaping crisis receive millions in new funding from Juul settlement

Dozens of schools, government entities and nonprofits will receive new funding to combat the youth vaping crisis. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Tuesday that he will give more than $17 million to 42 groups.

The money comes from a nearly $32 million legal settlement with e-cigarette maker Juul as part of a national agreement, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office.

In 2020, the state sued Juul over its marketing practices, alleging that it advertised directly to young people and misrepresented the health risks of its products. The money will go toward programs focused on education, prevention and treatment of vaping among youth. That could include mental and behavioral health services.

“By investing in these organizations, we are taking a critical step toward protecting our youth from the dangers of vaping. This funding will enable communities to educate our young people about the risks, implement preventative measures, and provide necessary treatment to those affected,” Weiser said in a release. “Together, we can create a healthier future for our children and help keep them from vaping in the first place.”

Funds were awarded through two programs: one for nonprofits and government entities and the other for local educational institutions in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education.

The $6 million comes from the Colorado Department of Law’s Combating Youth Vaping in Colorado grant. The department received 31 grant applications for more than $18 million.

According to a statement, the Attorney General’s Office said the awards will be given to several programs:

  • 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Lighthouse Program, $224,010
    • This program will provide youth vaping education and prevention efforts in Mesa County, reaching underserved rural communities with evidence-based curricula and community support.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Colorado, Inc., $855,979 –
    • The initiative aims to prevent substance use among youth through evidence-based programs, community engagement and peer-led activities at 50 clubs across the state.
  • Broomfield Public Health and Environment, $202,184 –
    • The team will offer nicotine replacement therapy and peer support to help young people quit vaping, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, $541,158 (pending) –
    • The program, focused on youth vaping, will include trauma-informed counseling, nicotine replacement therapy, and community engagement with support from a Youth Advisory Council.
  • Mountain Youth, $500,000 –
    • The project will address the issue of vaping among youth in the Eagle River Valley through prevention education, media campaigns, smoking cessation programs and youth-led initiatives.
  • Jefferson County Public Health Service, $400,000 –
    • As part of the joint project, youth action councils and social partners will conduct educational activities and services to support addiction cessation among young people.
  • Delta, Montrose and Ouray Associates, $297,161 –
    • Mentors will support high school and middle school students with behavioral challenges through school programs focused on preventive education and personal development.
  • Youth Partners, $335,487 –
    • This initiative aims to support young people by connecting them with trusted adults, engaging them in Youth Action Councils and preventing substance use through positive development activities.
  • Rocky Mountain Health Promotion and Education Center, $800,000 –
    • The program aims to strengthen protective factors against substance use among youth. Adults will learn to build strong bonds with youth in the family, school and community.
  • La Raza Services, $950,000 –
    • The organization will implement a program to help Latino youth stop using two languages ​​and will also launch a youth-led, educational prevention campaign.
  • University of Colorado/Colorado School of Public Health, UpRISE, $544,018 –
    • This initiative, an extension of the youth-led movement for social justice and tobacco control, will include educational programs, build organizational partnerships, and engage a diverse Youth Action Council.
  • Youth Health Alliance, $350,000 –
    • School-based health centers will collaborate on an alternative disciplinary model that addresses youth vaping in the context of understanding and responding to mental health needs.

The department is also working with the state Department of Education to award more than $11 million to local education groups over the next three years.

Forty school districts, charter schools, and BOCES applied for the Vaping Prevention Education Grant for a program beginning in the fall 2024 semester, with 30 providers awarded the following amounts for the first year:

Adams Arapahoe 28J $140,267
Alamosa RE 11J $244,968
Preparing the Atlas $85,000
AXL Academy $238,000
Bennett 29J $218,547
Center Consolidated School District 26JT $198,098
Chavez/Huerta K-12 Preparatory Academy $46,940
Colorado Military Academy $117,471
District 49 $126,961
Dolores County RE2 $45,681
Downtown Denver Expedition $78,000
DSST Schools $114,000
Eagle County RE50 $213,353
Elizabeth School District 130,217 dollars
Fountain 8 $131,009
Gunnison RE-1J $74,534
Harrison 2 $253,405
Lake County $87,543
Manco 54,300 dollars
Mapleton $36,681
Montrose County RE 1J 100,000 dollars
New Heritage Charter $71,624
North Park R-1 $187,545
Pueblo County 70 $127,657
San Luis Valley BOCES $273,870
Sierra Grande R-30 $100,985
Southern Peaks Regional Treatment Center $36,181
Steamboat RE-2 Sources $125,635
Strasbourg 31J $91,500
Peak 50,000 dollars

“We are pleased to award this funding to combat the youth vaping crisis by providing resources for education, prevention and treatment in our Colorado schools,” Colorado Education Commissioner Susana Córdova said in a release. “Our goal is to provide local educators with the tools they need to address the health impacts of vaping on our youth.”

Both grants are part of what the attorney general’s office calls a “comprehensive, multifaceted approach” to addressing the immediate and long-term health effects of vaping among youth. Last month, Weiser announced a $20 million initiative to strengthen school-community partnerships and promote youth mental health and well-being statewide. Applications for this grant opportunity will open in fall 2024 and close in early 2025.

About the settlement

In 2020, the state sued Juul over its marketing practices. Its investigation found that the company advertised directly to young people and misrepresented the health risks of its products.

Colorado was the state with the highest number of teen vapers per capita in the country when the state filed its lawsuit. One in six Colorado teens reported vaping in the past month, according to 2021 state data, and that number drops even further in the latest data from 2023.

But the Juul generation’s influence continues to affect young people as they enter adulthood. Data from the state health department shows that adult vaping rates are rising in Colorado, driven by a surge among college-age young adults, ages 18 to 24.

In its investigation, the state found that the company targeted ads and social media campaigns to “cool kids.” It hired “brand ambassadors” to hand out free samples to young people at convenience stores in the state. It hired social media influencers to promote the products as a way to introduce young people to e-cigarettes.

As a result, vaping gained popularity across the country, and “Juuling” became a ubiquitous mode of expression and habit for many young people, Weiser said when the settlement was announced.

Social media, including Instagram and YouTube, became key outlets for messaging. Weiser said the company was “very aware of the virality of social media, very aware of the norms of social media. Juul identified the influences that young people would pay attention to and established what I’ll call negative social norms. Juul or Juuling is cool. That was the norm.”

Under the agreement, Juul is prohibited from using these marketing techniques in the future.