PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (ABC4) – Those looking toward the mountains near Pleasant Grove may have noticed a giant chat bubble, illuminated about halfway up toward the “G” and a bit to the right.

With a giant red question mark in the center, it left many residents wondering – what is it?

That chat bubble is part of a campaign by PG Cares Coalition and See Through the Vape, intended to remind parents and high school students alike to have a conversation on a potentially addicting habit – vaping.

Tamara Oborn, who works as the prevention program coordinator for Pleasant Grove City, hopes the giant display can start a dialogue between parents and children about vaping. The lighted feature, which can be seen throughout the area, was complimented by printed materials distributed in the Utah County-based city.

“We’ve seen vape rates rise exponentially. All of our statistics show that kids really have a low perception of risk with vaping. They don’t understand what chemicals are in it, they don’t understand that it’s just as addictive as cigarettes. And parents really are unaware of the technology of vaping and what their kids have access to. So we just wanted to create this campaign and really bring awareness hopefully have families speak about the dangers and realities of vaping in their homes,” Oborn tells ABC4.

The lights above the city with a population of near 40,000 are impressive in their own right, but getting the feature built was a surprisingly physical process. Fortunately, the man responsible, David Hartle, has it down to a science, having done other light features on the mountains, including a star at Christmas time and a Utah state outline with a heart that was done at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Courtesy of David Hartle

While Hartle had to hike and carry the lights up the mountainside, placing them was easy thanks to a system he devised using a GPS device, says Oborn.

“He knows exactly where to place them so that it will look a certain way,” she says of Hartle. “It’s an incredible process.”

According to PG Cares, vaping is already an issue among teenagers in the community and has the potential to become an even larger problem. Statistics provided to ABC4 by the group indicate 10% of Pleasant Grove 10th graders have tried vaping, and 1 in 5 high schoolers have used a vaping device. Additionally, 85% of Pleasant Grove kids who are trying tobacco for the first time are doing so by vaping.

PG Cares also reports 65% of the area’s high schoolers are showing depressive symptoms. See Through the Vape’s website shows this can be a recipe in disaster as immediate and long-term effects of the nicotine in vapes can include mood disorders, lower impulse control, depression, and anxiety.

Courtesy of PG Cares

Oborn has worked in prevention programs for some time with PG Cares, a coalition of 20 community volunteers invested in the wellbeing of Pleasant Grove’s residents. Campaigns like these, which are targeted at addiction awareness and prevention, are especially important to her as a couple of her immediate family members have struggled with substance abuse.

“My goal is to save one family from the pain that I’ve seen,” Oborn states, adding that vaping, which can appear harmless to kids, can not only have harmful effects on its own, but can lead to other substance use, such as marijuana, opioids, and alcohol.  

As for how Oborn plans to measure the campaign’s effectiveness, she says it’ll be difficult to do so, but even the smallest difference would make the effort worthwhile.

“The goal is 1%. I mean, if we can help one family and save one person from struggling with a lifelong addiction, it’s worth it, it’s worth any amount,” Oborn says. “But with this large of a campaign, you know, we hope to reach 100 families, but 1,000 families would be incredible. It’s really hard to measure what the impact is going to be. Prevention work is really that way. But reaching anyone is the goal.”