Owensboro, Ky. (WEHT) — Kentucky Weslyan hosted a nicotine and vaping awareness presentation for students, with the help of Robert Hackenson Jr..

In the Jack Wells Activity Center, Hackenson used his professional edutainment skills to incorporate theatrics and magic into the presentation.

The idea for the event came from a general health survey given on campus that revealed students who choose to use tobacco are primarily vaping.

“Tonight’s program is sort of a culmination of that. In addition to the cessation products and counselors that we’ve had on campus, we wanted to do some interactive programming for them to hopefully get their attention,” said Rebecca McQueen-Ruark, the Dean of students.

Ruark says they’ve utilized Hackenson previously, but this event is made possible for KWC by a community health investment gran provided by Owensboro Health.

The grant funded training for the college to have two trained BREATHE tobacco treatment specialists on campus. BREATHE specialists can offer counseling, nicotine alternatives, and much more because of this training.

Owensboro Health says the selection process is highly competitive, takes about 8 or 9 months to complete, and has several stipulations.

“All recipients of the large and the mini grant program actually have to have a 100% tobacco free policy. So, that is something that is unique because we are a health system and because Kentucky, in particular, is so plagued by you know mortality and tobacco usage,” said Nicole Leach, the community engagement specialist for the medical center.

Officials say Kentucky is one of five states with the highest rate of e-cigarette use in the country.

Hackenson says he’s been doing this particular vaping presentation for about 10 years, and the drive to educate is inspired by the loss of his grandfather; His grandfather’s smoking habits during childhood led to a battle with emphysema.

“He did eventually quit, but he already had emphysema, and I saw him and everything, and the battles he went through. Now, you see teen smoking rates at all time lows, and then all of a sudden [here] comes the rise of vaping,’ said Hackenson.

Hackenson says he walks the audience through an exercise that touches on the disconnect that can sometimes happen while working through addiction.

The exercise involves multi-tasking with your feet and hands in a way that, he says, most are able to see a difference in what the brain communicates to the body versus what it actually does. He says tobacco-users usually know what they want to do or should do in relation to the health effects of its usage, but there’s often a disconnect in ‘how’ to take those next steps towards quitting.

Kentucky Wesleyan’s Dean of students says they were contacted by local school districts to get connected with high school and middle school students, as well.