- Featured Stories
- Douglas County
- City of Ava
- General Interest
Two students from Ava High School attended the two-day conference at Westminster College in Fulton to learn about the many facets of tobacco-free advocacy, including writing letters to newspaper editors and making public service announcements for local radio stations. The students, Jasmine Phillips and Bri Tiff, also had time to have fun, socialize, and build connections with peers concerned about tobacco.
“I’m concerned about tobacco because I almost lost my grandpa to throat cancer,” Tiff said.
After engaging in peer education and teambuilding activities, students also heard from Victor DeNoble, a former Phillip Morris employee who is now a nationally recognized whistle-blower on the tobacco industry. Dr. DeNoble spoke to the students about the harmful effects of nicotine addiction.
“We need to treat nicotine addiction the way we treat any other addiction,” he said.
DeNoble also discussed the importance of reaching young audiences with a tobacco-free message. “Eighty percent of all drug addicts become addicted before the age of 21… If you can get just one kid to not use tobacco, you’re not only affecting that kid’s life, you’re affecting the lives of dozens, and dozens, and dozens of other people.”
The more than 60 students who attended the conference will be expected to share what they have learned with their communities. For example, students will plan and stage activities promoting a tobacco-free environment in their schools and hometowns, such as Ava.
The work done by young leaders such as Jasmine Phillips and Bri Tiff is timely and important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 20 percent of all deaths in the United States are caused by tobacco. In Douglas County, about 28 percent of adults smoke, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. A continued dialogue on the harms of tobacco, as well as strategies for prevention and control, may help reduce these statistics.
Organizations like CASE (Campus-Community Alliances for Smoke-free Environments) and the student-led organization Show-Me PALS (People Advocating Living Smoke-Free), who put on this event, are working to create a tobacco-free Missouri by countering the marketing of harmful tobacco products by tobacco companies. The leaders of these Missouri organizations hope these types of conferences will inspire educational programs, policy changes, and other initiatives to improve public health in Douglas County and around the state.
“It’s exciting to see students from across the state getting so fired up about this important issue. They come out each year, volunteering their time and effort to trying to improve the health of all Missourians,” said Joyce Lara, School Coordinator for Smokebusters, one of the co-sponsors of the SWAG (Students with a Goal) event. “Students like these are a vital piece when it comes to policy change, especially when dealing with an issue like tobacco. Many times they can get things done when others cannot.”
This event was supported by the Missouri Foundation for Health and the University of Missouri.
ABOUT Show-Me PALS: The mission of Show-Me PALS (People Advocating Living Smoke-free) is to promote healthy lifestyles by advocating for a tobacco free Missouri, educating youth about the risks of tobacco use, and empowering future generations to be tobacco-free.
ABOUT CASE: CASE (Campus-Community Alliances for Smoke-Free Environments) is a group of researchers and experts on smoking cessation and the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke. Their main goals are to reduce exposure to workplace smoking and to promote tobacco use prevention programs in communities, campuses, and schools. CASE is funded through grants and contracts from a variety of sources including the Missouri Foundation for Health, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.