Student body presidents from 12 Brevard County high schools will be loading up on a bus to Tallahassee at 4 a.m. Thursday morning to stop vaping in their schools.
Cassie Ruiz, the student government president at Space Coast Junior/Senior High School in Cocoa, says it may not be the most popular move among her classmates, but it's what's right.
"I say 'Sorry, not sorry' because this is important," Ruiz said. "As SGA president of my school, as a leader in my community among my peers, that is my responsibility, to stand up for what is right and not what's popular, so hopefully the can live a more healthy lifestyle."
Ruiz was one of three students who shared their grievances with what they see within their school hallways when it comes to vaping at the Brevard County School Board meeting last week.
"This is the problem we see in our schools," she said. "People are doing it in the bathroom people are doing it in class because they look like flash drives, teachers can't tell what they are doing."
She and her classmates are ready to take their fight to Tallahassee. The bus will leave Brevard Public Schools headquarters at 4:30 a.m, Thursday morning for the students to make it on time for their first meetings with lawmakers at 9:30 a.m.
The students will then split up into groups of two or three to meet with as many lawmakers as they can, 15 minutes at a time.
Their goal? To get lawmakers to vote "yes" on HB 7027. The bill will include vaping in the language of the smoking ban in workplaces. It will also include language to prohibit anyone under the age 18 to smoke or vape within 1,000 feet of a school. Right now, the language only includes adults.
"They didn't apply that to people under the age of 18 at the time because people under the age of 18 shouldn't be vaping or using e-cigarettes," Ruiz said Wednesday. "But when they found out this is such a problem and that they are doing it anyway they have to place additional restrictions.
The numbers in Brevard County prove vaping is a problem. In fact, school officials called it an epidemic.
During the first quarter of last year, 40 students were suspended for tobacco possession. This year, that number jumped to 206 for the same time period, according to data from the school district.
"We are hoping that from them hearing it from the student voice ourselves, from people who are experiencing this firsthand, that this will be really getting results," Ruiz said.
She and the other students are also asking lawmakers for an addendum to House Bill7027, to require vape manufactures include its ingredients on packages like tobacco companies have to do for cigarettes and to require more public education on the dangers of e-cigarettes.
Brevard County Public Schools released a statement Wednesday commending the student's efforts.
“We are extremely proud of the time, energy and passionate commitment that our Student Government leaders have brought to the issue of vaping in our schools," Nikki Hensley, spokesperson for Brevard Public Schools said. "They have already moved mountains in bringing this subject to the forefront. We are confident their time in Tallahassee will be well spent making their case to lawmakers and urging for increased restrictions to help curb this growing epidemic among our young people."