USM Band Alumni, Friends Reunite to Form 'Schools Against Vaping'
According to numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5 million middle and high school students are currently using some form of e-cigarettes or other vaping devices, increasingly bringing those devices to secretly use on school campuses.
Given those statistics, a group of friends formerly of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Pride of Mississippi Marching Band have formed a new project knows as Schools Against Vaping. The project – which is headed up by Michael Marks, Robert Magee, Ken Leach, James Hannah, Jimmy Harrington, Robert Sevier and Bobby Keating – is a national education advocacy program designed to help combat the vaping epidemic on those campuses.
“(In talking with my friends), we got to talking about the vaping industry,” said Marks, who serves as the national executive director for Schools Against Vaping. “Quite honestly, it was an awakening for me – I didn’t realize until I was doing my research how much school districts are having to spend having to monitor kids, bringing this stuff in their backpacks, and you would never know.
“When they told me that there are actually more children using e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes, I guess my generational colors were showing then. It’s causing quite a problem and affecting things like attendance rate, which when a kid is absent, school districts are losing money.”
Knowing that school districts are underfunded as is – and taking into consideration students’ health – Marks and his friends decided to step in and help.