Educators Join Together for ENVISIONING A NEW ERA (THE VAPE-FREE VERSION) Statewide Vaping Prevention Conference

Teachers and school administrators from around the state will gather on Wednesday, March 13 at Quidnessett Country Club in North Kingstown, for ENVISIONING A NEW ERA (THE VAPE-FREE VERSION). This Taylor Swift-themed vaping prevention conference, organized by Kathy Sullivan and Heidi Driscoll, regional directors of Kent and South County Prevention Coalitions, and Natalie Kimmerlein, grant manager of the Eliminating Tobacco Disparities grant funded by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), is an opportunity for educators to learn about strategies to address and prevent youth vaping in their schools. 

“School personnel remain on the front lines of the youth vaping crisis. The conference will be an exciting mix of networking and learning, and we hope that attendees will walk away feeling energized to make a change in their communities,” said Heidi Driscoll, Director of South County Prevention Coalition.

Youth vaping is a significant public health issue in Rhode Island and across the country. In 2023, 2.13 million middle and high school students across the United States reported current (past 30 days) e-cigarette use. Approximately nine out of ten youth who use e-cigarettes use flavored products. In Rhode Island, nearly one in three high-school-aged youth report ever trying vaping and more than 17% indicate they currently use,” said Natalie Kimmerlein. 

The day will kick off with a keynote address from Dr. Renee Hobbs, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Rhode Island (URI) and Director of the Media Education Lab, on the role social media influencers play in the growing youth vaping epidemic.

Next, Daniel Fitzgerald, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association, and Ámbar Delgado, Manager of Tobacco Free Rhode Island, will provide an update on current trends on tobacco and nicotine dependence.

“Research has proven schools play a major role in preventing nicotine dependence through education and restorative-based policies and interventions,” said Ámbar Delgado, Manager of Tobacco Free Rhode Island at the American Lung Association. “The tobacco industry works tirelessly to protect their profits at the expense of many lives, including those of our own Rhode Islanders, and we know this epidemic burden is not shared equally. Together, alongside school leaders, we are working to change that narrative.”

The conversation will continue with a panel discussion featuring expert insights on education, prevention, and intervention strategies and solutions schools can use to address the issue.

“To help every Rhode Island young person live a life free from tobacco and nicotine, RIDOH supports My Life, My Quit, a free and confidential way for youth to quit smoking or vaping. Youth have unique needs when trying to quit tobacco/nicotine products: their developing brains are more susceptible to nicotine addiction, they are targeted by deceptive marketing techniques, they may fear losing friendships if they quit, and adult treatment options may not be appropriate for them. My Life, My Quit coaches are trained to respond to the unique challenges teens face to enable them to live tobacco-free lives,” said Jillian Angell, Youth and Young Adults Coordinator for RIDOH’s Tobacco Control Program. Teens can text “Start” to 36072 or visit to learn more.

The conference will conclude with an opportunity for participants to work together to build action plans to bring back to their schools and communities. 

Kent and South County Prevention Coalitions are a part of a group of dedicated members and partners working together to provide substance use prevention strategies, mental health resources, and advocacy for policies that support healthy and safe communities. These prevention coalitions are funded by the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) and managed by Coastline EAP.

For more information on Rhode Island’s Regional Prevention Coalitions and prevention programming across the lifespan, visit and follow @riprevention on Instagram.

Youth nicotine use in any form is unsafe. If you know a youth in your life who needs help quitting, visit Tobacco Free Rhode Island.