Greene County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coordinator Sandy May is encouraging local organizations to take part in educating youth about tobacco use.
May is currently promoting the VOICE 101 Training in Evansville to join adult allies and youth in grades 6 to 12 to learn about the tobacco industries targeting youth.
The VOICE Training Conference will be Saturday, Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST at The Dream Center in Evansville.
May explained the conference is searching for youth organizations, whether it be church youth groups or within the schools, to learn about strategies to protect our youth.
"It used to be the 16- and 17-year-olds we had to worry about using tobacco. Then it was the 14- and 15-year-olds. Now it's more like 11- and 12-year-olds," May stressed.
May said the conference will educate teens and their adult allies about the techniques used by tobacco companies to target the youth and offer advice to empower teenagers to fight back against the attempts.
Those interested in attending the conference are urged to contact May because funds may be available to assist with travel costs, she noted.
May is currently working with several Greene County schools to pinpoint the problem areas, and learn what the students know about the dangers of tobacco.
She has sent surveys to all local schools, and plans to compile the information to discern where the troubled spots are in the county.
May said Eastern Greene and Shakamak schools have said there is an issue with chewing tobacco with students.
"The spit tobacco can be worse than smoking. There is fiber glass in it that cuts the lip to go directly into the blood stream. The addiction is much quicker," May stressed.
May said often times children blame their parent's tobacco use as a reason for them to start.
"The generations before them didn't know about the dangers of smoking. They didn't know it could cause high blood pressure, cancer and lung problems," May added.
She said youth are taking extreme measures to acquire tobacco, including standing outside of convenience stores asking strangers to purchase it, asking older siblings to buy it for them, stealing the tobacco from their parents and even going as far as shoplifting the products.
May said the most important step is to educate students on the dangers of tobacco use, and make them think about the long-term issues.
The first project was a poster persuasion contest, where students were encouraged to create a poster explaining why friends and family members should quit using tobacco.
Grant funding through the Local Coordinating Council allowed May to award the top three posters from Bloomfield school with a monetary prize.