‘Taking a Toke’ sends strong message about the ill effects of ingesting nicotine
When Hull resident and former soccer coach Lori Tobin, who also taught an exercise class at Jacobs Elementary School around 2008, noticed as she was driving through town that former students who were by then in middle and high school were vaping, she decided to take action.
A former smoker who lost both her parents to tobacco use, Tobin was well aware of the negative health impacts of smoking nicotine and decided to create a documentary called “Taking a Toke.”
The film is about the impact of vaping on teen health and families and features stories of young people who once vaped or are still vaping and suffering the consequences. The documentary is geared toward middle and high school students.
The influence of social media and peer pressure weighs heavily in the so-called appeal young people have for vaping. “They often think it’s all about inhaling water vapor, so they believe it’s harmless, but it’s not,” Tobin says. “They are actually inhaling nicotine and other chemicals that go down into their lungs. It’s a drug.” According to the National Institutes of Health, just one “pod” contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
Already a volunteer with Harbor Media, where she was involved with a cooking show, a “Getting a Green Thumb” series based at Hingham Middle School, and a safe boating video at various times, Tobin decided to approach some of the Harbor Media staff to provide assistance with getting the filming of the documentary off the ground.
Harbor Media’s executive director, Michelle Balconi, says the staff was “thrilled to have watched Lori grow her message from creating health, wellness, and boating programming on Harbor Media’s Hingham channels” to producing a feature-length documentary.
Although Tobin decided to hire a film crew to continue with the making of the documentary, Harbor Media producer Joe Collymore did some of the interviewing of individuals featured in the film.
He has high praise for Tobin’s efforts. “I am honored to have been invited by Lori to help on this important documentary about the dangers of vaping. As a Hull resident for over 10 years, I have witnessed our young people vaping on the beach and boardwalk in town,” Collymore says. “It breaks my heart to see them using these products with little to no knowledge of the long-term effects on their health.
“We had a number of local residents contribute their background knowledge on the issue – and in some cases, their voices – to the making of this film. Lori is a powerful visionary about health and wellness for our young people, and we’re fortunate to have her in our community.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is interviewed in the film, talking her fight against some of the companies that produce and sell vaping products.
“I believe that the documentary will have an impact on middle and high school kids because they see the bad consequences that come from vaping told through the stories of their peers,” she says.
While filming the documentary, Tobin approached Hull High School music teacher Ian Barkon, asking if he could recommend students who might be willing to write and perform a rap song for the film. Mattheu Sullivan, Anthony Albrandi, Sasha Green, and Ben Williams were happy to help and came up with the compelling “Juulin’ Don’t Be Foolin”.
The song refers to a form of e-cigarette known as the “Juul” that is being used by young people across the country, leading to an increased rate of addiction to nicotine, according to health experts.
Flavored vaping pods are particularly dangerous, Tobin said. “All it takes is three inhalations for the teenage brain to become addicted,” she says. “The nicotine is concentrated, but the flavors numb the throat so that the negative impacts aren’t felt by the person doing the vaping. They’re just enjoying the flavor without understanding” what is actually happening. Vaping flavors include cream, berry, coffee mango cream, menthol, watermelon, and chocolate peppermint, among many others.
Tobin has strong connections to Hull. Her family summered here for decades before she became a full-time resident in 1994. She and her family love to sail.
“Hull is the perfect place to have a sailboat,” says Tobin, who, in addition to her role in filmmaking, also runs an athletic apparel company named SporTobin.
A link on Tobin’s website, takingatoke.com, makes it easy for educators, parent-teacher organizations, and others interested in spreading the message – to stay away from vaping and why – to arrange a live stream of the film for a particular group for a fee to help pay for the cost of producing the film. The documentary premieres virtually on Nov. 11.