Recently, we awarded a $30,000 grant to Spectrum Health Foundation for continuation of the Spectrum Health Healthier Communities Youth Tobacco Prevention program. This grant helps Spectrum Health continue the all-important work of equipping Grant Rapids’ youth with the knowledge and skills needed to avoid tobacco experimentation and addiction.
Spectrum Health Foundation understands that peer pressure is the strongest influence in determining whether a child will become a smoker. Peer pressure is even stronger than having a parent who smokes at home.
School-based tobacco prevention education continues to be recommended by the national Centers for Disease Control and Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids to reduce tobacco experimentation in youth. That’s why the Youth Tobacco Prevention program provides positive, school-based, anti-tobacco education for students in grades K-12. Program leaders focus on being proactive. They teach students the vocabulary, health messaging and refusal skills for when they eventually encounter peer pressure. Because they will encounter it eventually – and we want them to be ready.
“We have long recognized the unique approach and enduring impact their school based tobacco prevention programs have on the incidence of tobacco use and have been proud to support their efforts for over a decade,” said Kate Luckert Schmid, Program Director at the Community Foundation.
“Although the use of conventional tobacco products in youth has declined, the popularity and use of tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes and hookah have skyrocketed and necessitate continued prevention education in the schools,” said Libby Stern, Spectrum Health community health educator and tobacco treatment specialist.
At Grand Rapids Community Foundation, we pride ourselves on diving deeply into new and challenging community issues. Supporting Spectrum Health Foundation’s efforts to address these emerging tobacco products is just one way we can offer our influence to the community good.
The Youth Tobacco Prevention program is a comprehensive, graduated approach to tobacco education. It mainly targets underserved demographics and can be found in a number of Grand Rapids Public Schools. Beginning in kindergarten through fourth grade, the Tobacco-No Way! program lets students interact with stories, videos and puzzles to learn about tobacco, smoking and nicotine.
Fifth graders partake in Lung Day, a series of advanced, interactive lessons. This includes a pig lung dissection and respiratory walk. New this year is an emerging products presentation, providing students with a close-up study of electronic cigarettes, hookah and other smokeless products in the market. “Although the use of conventional tobacco products in youth has declined in the U.S., the popularity and use of tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes and hookah have skyrocketed and necessitate continued prevention education in the schools,” said Libby Stern.
High school students have the opportunity to join Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU). These teenagers acquire skills in writing, researching, video production and leadership as they help teach younger children and community members about the dangers of smoking. “In addition, the program incorporates media into the prevention message, and students create anti-tobacco public service announcements each year in collaboration with the Grand Rapids Community Media Center,” said Libby Stern.
For more coverage of this topic, please see this video from WMMT.