Greene County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coordinator Sandy May said Thursday's Great American Smokeout was a kickoff for schools to get started on prevention programs.
"It would be great if the whole nation didn't smoke for one day -- if everybody was smoke and tobacco free. That's a great time for them to quit, and if they want to continue not to smoke, they can contact us and we will put them in contact with people who will help," May explained about the purpose of the smokeout.
GCTPC will be using a $500 grant from Greene County Local Coordinating Council to educate students in the five county schools about the dangers of smoking.
"It's important to start educating them (students) when they are 12 and 13-years-old because many start using tobacco between 14 and 17-years-old," May noted.
May added most adults are later faced with the difficult task of having to quit, often due to illness or the issues caused by smoking for years. She added if the schools can prevent the use of tobacco current students will not have to face these issues in the future.
In the 1970s the tobacco industry started to target the younger generations, according to May.
She referenced a quote by RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1974 stating, "They (children) represent tomorrow's cigarette business. ... As this 14 to 24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume -- for at least the next 25 years."
The Shakamak High School SADD program began its prevention program by offering visuals for students to fully understand the implications of smoking.
"We put up a bulletin about the contents of cigarettes using visuals like a healthy lung and unhealthy lung," sponsor Kara Austin explained. "They (students) really liked it because we made one that was 3-D, with a cigarette sticking out. They seemed to look at it more, instead of just reading the words. You can put all kinds of wonderful information on there, but it doesn't mean they are going to read it."
White River Valley Junior-Senior High School Guidance Counselor Rebecca Harris said the implementation of the prevention program is a work in progress, and she is working to get a group of students together.
"Rebecca used to have a very involved group of kids that traveled quite a bit and participated in events targeting the (tobacco) industry at the statehouse and at the State Fair, etc, but that very active group of kids has graduated and we need to start fresh," May explained, noting she may serve as the adult ally for the program.
Eastern Greene Middle School Student Advisor Callie Schlemmer said her work with the program started out as drug prevention among the youth.
"We had a bulletin board in main hallway that said 'Drugs? T-Birds have better things to do'. I had them list the things they would rather be doing, and got a lot of good answers like, go to church, hang out with friends, cheerleading, and other sports," Schlemmer said.
During the Great American Smokeout, Schlemmer will kick off the tobacco prevention program with information about the harms to the body when using smoking or chewing tobacco.
Eastern Greene High School SADD sponsor Tracey Hughes said students plan on creating T-shirts and posters to get the word out.
"Our issue at Eastern Greene seems to be chewing," Hughes noted.
To get students thinking about tobacco prevention and cessation, SADD members read facts about the use of tobacco on the announcements Thursday.
"Just your typical ideas to get the kids thinking about the issues with tobacco," Hughes said.