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The City Journals

Kick Ash Festival seeks to put an end to ‘vape-havior’ – E-cigs on most-wanted list, per youth filmmakers

Apr 23, 2019 03:48PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]


Local students are hooked on a bad habit: the use of e-cigarettes and vapes has increased an astonishing 500 percent since 2011.

The findings come from the annual Student Health and Risk Prevention Survey (SHARP), conducted by area school districts in conjunction with the state health department.


While to young minds vaping may seem like a warm and fuzzy, innocuous version of cigars, cigarettes and tobacco, vaping is anything but un-dangerous. According to the American Lung Association, “evolving evidence” spells a collision course of vape usage with irreversible lung damage and lung disease.

“People think vaping and e-cigarettes are different (from traditional tobacco products),” said Julia Glade, health educator with the SLCO Health Department. “They aren’t. They are the same thing.”

Kicking Ash through the best communicators — kids themselves

SLCO is using an innovative approach to discourage teen vaping. 

county officials are counting on kids to do much of the communicating and, in doing so, create even more buzz, with the ultimate outcome being to “Escape the Vape.”

The 2019 Kick Ash Short Film Festival, held March 20 at West Jordan’s Viridian Event Center, gave students the chance to use creative and technical skills to make compelling 30–60-second anti-vape film “shorts” or public service announcements (PSAs) and then have them screened at a red carpet event. 

“Movies have always had great power in persuasion of ideas,” said Channing Lowe, associate professor of film for Salt Lake Community College. “Visuals can be more potent that words. Striking images stay engrained in the minds of the viewers for better or worse. Lowe commended SLCO in leveraging film to “influence those in a direction that can improve their lives.” 

In addition to the carrot of helping make a difference in the world, filmmakers were tantalized by significant booty. 

The school with the most Kick Ash film entrants was awarded $350 for its multimedia classrooms.

Kick Ash first-prize filmmakers in the upper division (grades 10–12) received $400, but the lure of the Audience Choice award may have been even more tantalizing: The Audience Choice winner, determined by a Facebook voting poll, received a Chromebook with a 32-inch monitor, speakers and Bluetooth headphones. Lower grades were awarded $100 for placing.

The Kick Ash ‘aha’ moment

Having studied health education promotion at the University of Utah, SLCO’s Glade is a certified health education specialist for SLCO. The Kick Ash Festival, now in its second year, is her idea. She says she got the inspiration for Kick Ash while attending the 2017 Utah Substance Abuse Conference in Southern Utah.

Studiously listening as a speaker encouraged creative solutions for substance abuse, Glade suddenly had a profound “aha”: Salt Lake County youth, as members of Generation Z, the first generation of true “digital natives,” would respond to messages in a compelling, digital format. 

The concept for Kick Ash was formed. Glade’s idea got the go-ahead, and the first Kick Ash event took place last year with the theme “Stand Up, Speak Out Against Big Tobacco.”

The winners — every Gen Z hearing the message and lucky high school, junior high filmmakers

The night of the screening of the 28 entrant videos at the Viridian Event Center, none of the entrants knew ahead of time which entries had won, adding to the excitement of the event. Winning entries were presented with oversized checks and another opportunity to pose on the red carpet.

What was the most important thing for the student-filmmakers entering Kick Ash 2019? “To know they can make a difference in educating their peers,” said Glade.

Community members SLCO Library, RC Willey, Larry H. Miller Charities, University of Utah Health Plans, Primary Children’s Hospital and Intermountain Healthcare were the underwriters of the prizes. All videography teams received not only cherished memories from the red carpet screening but a commemorative Kick Ash T-shirt.

The winning entry in the upper division — both the Judges’ and the Audience Choice award — was “Dreams” from Riverton High School. “Dreams” powerfully posited that “Teens are more likely to vape than use any other form of cigarettes,” making vape a “threatening gateway drug” for Gen Z. The payoff message? “Everyone has dreams. Don’t let vaping destroy yours.”

The first-place entry, in the lower division, is a fact-filled vid called “Be Smart, Don’t Start.” The vid playfully depicts doing obviously un-smart activities, such as touching a boiling pot, and then compares those to the decisions by teens to vape.

The school submitting the most entries, Draper Park Middle School (DPMS), also ended up being the school whose students swept the lower-division individual prizes, with first-, second- and third-place winners all coming from DPMS.

The festival’s timing made it a perfect fit for the DPMS science curriculum. “In seventh grade, we learn about body systems,” said Amy Valdez, seventh grade teacher for DPMS. “We had just finished learning about respiratory systems, so they had a lot of good background knowledge.”

Valdez paired the science and communications aspect of the project in students’ learning. “We talked about how a PSA needs to be informative,” she said. “It needs to be a quick message and pack a punch.” 


Complete list of winners in the Kick Ash Short Film Festival:

Upper Division (Grades 10–12)

First Place — Savannah Cobb and Maura Broadhead, Riverton High School

Second Place — Emily Guerrero, American Preparatory Academy, West Valley City

Third Place — Serena Washburn and Sydney Austin, Summit Academy High School, Bluffdale

Lower Division (Grades 7–9)

First Place — Ryan White, Draper Park Middle School

Second Place — Kasch Hart, Draper Park Middle School

Third Place — McKay Neyman and Tyler Balls, Draper Park Middle School

Audience Choice Award — Savannah Cobb and Maura Broadhead, Riverton High School

School with most entries — Draper Park Middle School


Find all of the student videos at #KickAsh2019 or search @SaltLakeHealth on YouTube. Spend time on a Monday night or other time watching these videos with Gen Z and/or other family members.