No on tobacco | Letter

No on tobacco

When high school students speak to their peers or younger students the impact of the message leaves a memorable impression. Peers educating peers just makes sense. They are affected by the same challenges and concerns they are addressing.

NextGeneration is a group of 26 Orcas Island high school students whose goal is to inform, support and empower students to make positive decisions in their future. This group uses the peers educating peers strategy to advocating for positive change on issues of concern in their school and their community.

On March 15th, NextGeneration members plan to join thousands of students nationwide taking part in Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco.

Unfortunately, 90% of smokers start using tobacco regularly by the time they are 18. The 2016 Surgeon General Report states that three million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2015. This is a huge concern to NextGeneration members and they plan to take on Big Tobacco’s attempt to market to our youth.

NextGeneration members worked with the elementary principal requesting class time for the students to attend their Kick Butts Day exhibits. Table exhibits will include the standard display informational boards plus the phlegm and tar jar for the yuck factor. Another yuck factor table is “They Put What In A Cigarette”. This exhibit continues to bring about lasting impressions with the recognition of household ingredients that individuals ingest into their lungs. The “Tobacco Question and Answer” ball will assist the group with informational facts in a fun and interactive way. The young people will end their tobacco awareness presentation with the “Promise Pinky Swear” station. This is where the high school students have the young people pledge to never ever ever smoke, and ask debriefing questions as youth pick out their sticker of choice.

There are many effective ways state and local officials can protect young people from tobacco. They can fund tobacco prevention programs; increase tobacco taxes; and pass smoke-free laws to protect us from secondhand smoke. Consider these facts: Each day, more than 400 kids become new regular smokers; roughly one-third of them will die prematurely from a tobacco- related disease. NextGeneration members take their fight against ‘Big Tobacco’ seriously. Raising awareness, encouraging youth to reject the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing, and helping youth stay tobacco-free is their goal. Today’s youth are not just part of the problem; they’re part of the solution.

Julie Pinardi

NextGeneration Advisor

Orcas Island High School