Winners Announced for 2022 Escape the Vape Youth Video Contest

Escape the Vape winners

More than 250 entries submitted from students across the state

(Minnesota) — April 21, 2022 — Mohamed Mustafa, a senior at Moorhead High School, and Princess Hart, an eighth grader at Buffalo Community Middle School, are this year’s Escape the Vape video contest winners for their videos Don’t Let Vaping Take that Away from You and Vaping Is Stressing You Out!, respectively. Each student will receive a $500 cash prize. Their schools will also each receive $500.

This year’s finalists include:
High School Division

  • 1st place: Mohamed Mustafa, Senior, Moorhead High School
  • 2nd place: Darrel Zhao, Sophomore, Wayzata High School
  • 3rd place: Ian Machalek, Junior, Eastview High School

Middle School Division

  • 1st place: Princess Hart, 8th Grader, Buffalo Community Middle School
  • 2nd place: Stella Taylor, 8th Grader, Highview Middle School
  • 3rd place: Isabella Larson, 8th Grader, Hastings Middle School

The Escape the Vape video contest asked Minnesota middle and high school students to create and submit a 30-second public service announcement video to educate their peers on the dangers of vaping. The contest, now in its second year, is a collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Health; Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota; Tobacco-Free Alliance; CCF Advertising; Medtronic; the Minnesota Youth Council; and Allina Health’s Change to Chill.

Students from more than 70 Minnesota schools around the state created videos. Students submitted 263 entries in total. Sixty-five middle and high school students, many from the Minnesota Youth Council, served as judges and helped select the 10 finalists. Public voting opened March 23. More than 1,900 people voted online to choose the winners for each division.

Watch the winning videos at Escape the Vape.

“We believe this contest is a crucial piece of peer-to-peer sharing regarding the dangers of vaping, including the mental and physical health harms associated with the high nicotine content in e-cigarettes,” said Elyse Levine Less, executive director of Tobacco-Free Alliance and one of the contest directors. “We’ve more than doubled participation in the second year of the contest, and we are thrilled to see so many students engaged.”

Here’s what the winners had to say about the contest:

“I see vaping as a harmful tool that can cause serious health problems, yet teenagers still turn to it,” said Mohamed, first-place winner for the high school division. “The goal of my video is to send a message portraying that for community improvement, it is important to keep that which is good and beneficial and to shed that which is harmful. Drop the bad (vaping), retain and embrace the good (your valuable health).”

“I entered the Escape the Vape contest because my health teacher told me about it. At first, I was just sketching out my animation for fun, but then quickly it was like woah, it’s so much more than a competition,” said Princess, first-place winner for the middle school division. “It’s about reaching other teens and kids wanting to improve their health as they learn about the negative effects of vaping – or teens and kids who are thinking about starting to vape. Soon it turned from, ‘I’m just doing it’ to ‘I want to help people improve their lives’ and ‘I want to educate other teens who don’t have the resources.’”

No amount of nicotine is safe for youth. Nicotine, a chemical commonly found in commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and e-cigarettes, is highly addictive and can be toxic. Because the adolescent brain is still developing until about age 25, youth nicotine exposure can increase the risk of addiction and can make youth more susceptible to addiction to commercial tobacco products and other substances in the future.

“The aerosol from e-cigarettes might look like just ‘water vapor’, but there is much more to it,” said Irina Stepanov,  Mayo Professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences. “There is nicotine of course, but there are other chemicals, too. A recent study showed that there could be more than 1,000 chemicals in aerosols of some e-cigarettes. Some of these chemicals are known to cause damage to DNA, which is a pathway towards cancer development. There are no good reasons for a young person to expose their lungs to such chemicals.”

In 2020, the Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that 1 in 5 Minnesota high school students reported having vaped in the past 30 days. “Even more troubling, 70% of these kids are showing signs of nicotine dependence like intolerable cravings, and 63% are having trouble quitting,” said senior research scientist Sharrilyn Helgertz, who administers the survey for the Minnesota Department of Health. “Half of current e-cigarette users want help to quit.”

To provide this help, MDH offers My Life, My Quit™, which supports Minnesota teens ages 13-17 in quitting commercial tobacco and nicotine, including vaping. The program is free and confidential. Teens can text to chat with a coach, engage in coaching calls and online chat, and receive youth-specific materials. Teens should text “Start” to 36072 or visit My Life, My Quit.

To learn more, visit Escape The Vape. To contact any of the winners or for questions about the contest, email Elyse Levine Less with the Tobacco-Free Alliance at

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