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Pop Culture

Gen Zers finally found a reason to quit vaping: to help the Democratic Republic of Congo

It's proving to be a surprisingly powerful reason for kids to quit.

gen z vaping congo, congo cobalt, gen z vaping
@itskristinamf/TikTok, Canva, @marajazzcabbge/TikTok

Gen Zers are quitting vaping in solidarity with The Democratic Republic of Congo

Getting teens to stop smoking seems to be an unending battle for parents. Just as the allure of cigarettes began to fade away after the year 2000 or so, e-cigs took on the “cool status” among Gen Zers—especially when they got a candy coated makeover and became hyped up by celebrities and influencers.

Now, vaping is as prevalent as ever among younger generations, despite overwhelming evidence showing the health risks and environmental damage, not to mention government crackdowns. But while none of these factors have convinced teens to kick the habit, social justice might actually do the trick.


Now, vaping is as prevalent as ever among younger generations, despite overwhelming evidence showing the health risks and environmental damage, not to mention government crackdowns. But while none of these factors have convinced teens to kick the habit, social justice might actually do the trick.

Currently there’s an online movement happening on TikTok where Gen Zers are encouraging each other to stop vaping in order to help support people in the Democratic Republic of Congo—where cobalt is mined to produce lithium-ion batteries which power a large portion of the world's electronics…including major single use vape brands like Juul, Elf Bar and Geek Bar.

As young people discovered the inhumane working conditions cobalt miners faced in DCR, likened to “modern day slavery” by the BBC, a viral boycott was born.

Twenty-five-year-old Kristina amassed 1.8 million views for her passionate video plea.

@itskristinamf #freecongo ♬ original sound - Krizztina

“I’m genuinely disgusted,” she says in the clip, having recently learned about DRC’s business practices, and realizing that of all her cobalt-utilizing electronics, her disposable vape was the only item that she consumed regularly enough to really contribute to the issue.

“If you look up what’s going on in congo right now, and you look at your vape, I swear to god you will never see it the same.”

Kristina’s sentiments are reflected in several other people her age who have made efforts to raise awareness of DRC’s plight and share how the knowledge has completely changed their perspective.

@chris.crochets #stitch with @Sèrge ♬ original sound - Chris🍄

If these videos are any indicator as to what kids these days really care about, freedom appears to be paramount. Several Gen Zers chimed in to say that previously, they would thwart quitting for health purposes using the mantra of “my body, my choice.” However, learning that so many continue to endure in the Congo without choice made it impossible not to be the vape pen down for good.

Empathy-focused action is another major factor. Gen Zers appear to be more engaged in activism than in previous generations, and TikTok is a major platform used to ignite deep conversations about social injustices. Basically, Gen Zers know how to use the voice, and tend to want to use it to stop suffering.

And while this movement might mean a resurgence of teens smoking cigarettes, the wrongdoings in that industry are no secret either. So maybe this time, we can all get on board with something that does a little good for everyone.

With a story that highlights some not-so-good aspects of humanity, it’s nonetheless heartening to see that generations to very well might be able to unite thanks to shared compassion.

Family

Dad takes 7-week paternity leave after his second child is born and is stunned by the results

"These past seven weeks really opened up my eyes on how the household has actually ran, and 110% of that is because of my wife."

@ustheremingtons/TikTok

There's a lot to be gleaned from this.

Participating in paternity leave offers fathers so much more than an opportunity to bond with their new kids. It also allows them to help around the house and take on domestic responsibilities that many new mothers have to face alone…while also tending to a newborn.

All in all, it enables couples to handle the daunting new chapter as a team, making it less stressful on both parties. Or at least equally stressful on both parties. Democracy!

TikTok creator and dad Caleb Remington, from the popular account @ustheremingtons, confesses that for baby number one, he wasn’t able to take a “single day of paternity leave.”

This time around, for baby number two, Remington had the privilege of taking seven weeks off (to be clear—his employer offered four weeks, and he used an additional three weeks of PTO).

The time off changed Remington’s entire outlook on parenting, and his insights are something all parents could probably use.

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TikTokker Amber Cimotti found this out the hard way when her daughter noted that she has an “old” person's name.

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“I live on a cruise ship for half the year with my husband, and it's often as glamorous as it sounds,” she told Insider. “After all, I don't cook, clean, make my bed, do laundry or pay for food.“

Living an all-inclusive lifestyle seems like paradise, but it has some drawbacks. Having access to all-you-can-eat food all day long can really have an effect on one’s waistline. Kesteloo admits that living on a cruise ship takes a lot of self-discipline because the temptation is always right under her nose.

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Woman shows her misbehaving cat to 'the trenches'

You always hear about a "bad dog," giving the furry goofballs a reputation for getting into mischief, but what about bad cats. Not all cats are angels just lounging around the house until someone gives them food while fanning them with a giant palm leaf. Some cats have a sketchy "catigree" and every once in a while they let that wild streak show. When that happens, what is a cat owner to do?

A cat mom that goes by the user name Lambo Licia on Instagram posted a video showing exactly how she gets her cat in line when he's misbehaving. No, it's not with a spray bottle. She shows him what life is like in "the trenches." You know, the area of town where homeless cats roam and cat burglars have real whiskers and thumbs that don't work, leaving a strange fish smell wherever they lurk.

If Scared Straight: Cat Edition was an actual thing, Mega, the orange tabby would be the first to turn his life around. He looks absolutely petrified from all of the unruly cat behavior he sees out the window and his mom's commentary.

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Science

College students use AI to decode ancient scroll burned in Mount Vesuvius

“Some of these texts could completely rewrite the history of key periods of the ancient world."

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E., it buried entire cities in volcanic materials. While Pompeii is the most famous site affected by the natural disaster, the nearby villa of Herculaneum was also laid to waste—including over 800 precious scrolls found inside Herculaneum’s library, which were carbonized by the heat, making them impossible to open and recover their contents.

Which brings us to the Vesuvius challenge, started by computer scientist Brent Seales and entrepreneurs Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross in March 2023. The contest would award $1 million in prizes to whoever could use machine learning to successfully read from the scrolls without damaging them.

On February 5, the prize-winning team was announced.
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Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons

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Some famous folks might revel in that special treatment and some might even express gratitude for it. But occasionally, you find a celebrity who refuses it altogether.

Take basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal, for instance.

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