On Monday night, the group hosted a Tobacco 101 training class at Sampson Community College, featuring a meal from Pizza Inn and teens coming from Union Middle School, Sampson Middle School, Clinton High School and the Sampson Early College to get involved in tobacco use prevention.
“It was amazing,” said Melinda Holland, Sampson County Healthy Carolinians secretary. “It felt good to see the teenagers there — it was just great. There were kids from Durham, New Hanover County, and our own kids were there. It is rewarding because this effort is a community effort and it is going to take everybody, especially the young adults, to let people know that this is the right thing to do.”
Members of the Healthy Carolinians were approached with the idea to encourage middle and high school students in local school and community youth groups to become teen tobacco use prevention advocates through participation in TRU (Tobacco. Reality. Unfiltered.) by longtime supporters Question Why East.
TRU is North Carolina’s teen tobacco use prevention initiative which encourages youth to be non-tobacco users and to become active in preventing tobacco use among their peers. Eastern North Carolina counties have received funding through Question Why East to provide opportunities for youth to become tobacco use prevention policy advocates.
“It is a great thing,” said Wendy Dixon, a member of the Healthy Carolinians. “Now the kids will set up little prevention stations at Union Middle School, Sampson Middle School, Clinton High School and Sampson County Early College to promote the program, and the kids can learn about ways to stop smoking and ways to not get started in it.”
According to Sampson County’s 2007 Community Health Assessment, smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco are responsible for the majority of all cancers of the lung, trachea, bronchus, larynx, oral cavity, and esophagus. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Sampson County. Over 33 percent of adults are exposed to secondhand smoke at work, 23.8 percent of adults currently smoke cigarettes and 11.6 percent of women smoke while pregnant.
The intent of Monday’s meeting was to inform and garner support for the initiative.
“It is important that the kids get out there and really try to work toward what they feel is right,” said Holland. “It is imporant that they put the effort out there.”
Holland knows what she is talking about. Recently, Healthy Carolinians worked to get all eating establishments in Sampson County to go smoke free. “We had a bunch who were interested,” said Dixon. “Luckily, it was Pizza Inn who decided to go smoke-free on Sundays. They tried something and it worked out — it was a great leap of faith on their part, but on the other hand, it took that first step to get the word out there. That is what we want.”
That word is about to spread some more. On March 25, Sampson County Healthy Carolinians and The Teen Advocacy Group Against Tobacco otherwise known as Teen H.E.A.T. (Help Extinguish All Tobacco to the second power) will host “Kick Butts Day.” The day is a Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ annual celebration of youth advocacy, leadership and activism.
Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed during the initial kickoff event, Austin Thornton, Kevin Norris, Haley Anders, Kaitlin Norris, Angel Libero, Cameron Chaney, Greg Daughtry, Marcus Smith, Jonathan Sampson, Mildred Fisher, Damara King, Jocelyn Sampson, Niara Underwood, Tamara Sampson, Brittany Alexander, Donique Smith, Emilee Carter, Jessica Gautier, Pamela Ponce, Hope Tucker, and Sara Resendez have all agreed to participate by speaking up against tobacco.
For more information about any of the programs offered by the Sampson County Healthy Carolinians, call Veronica Murphy at 592-1131.
To reach Doug Clark call 910- 592-8137 ext. 139 or send email to email@example.com.