Did you know that nearly 9 out of 10 people who use tobacco start by the time they graduate from high school? Tobacco use is an epidemic and remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, and youth in Jefferson County are working to change this by preparing for a year of coordinated efforts to reduce the toll of tobacco in their schools and communities.
Breathe Easy (BE) teams are clubs that exist in five Jefferson County High Schools including Golden, Jefferson, Lakewood, Ralston Valley and Wheat Ridge. Sponsored by their high schools and Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH), BE Teams work to cause sustainable change that supports healthy, tobacco-free environments and prevents youth from initiating tobacco use.
Annually, as part of a kick off to the school year, JCPH sponsors an intensive half-day Youth Advocacy Workshop that includes skill-building activities and leadership training to support BE Team students in their advocacy and outreach efforts throughout the school year. This year’s workshop will take place on October 3, 2015, from 9am to 1:30pm at the Jefferson County Courts and Administration Building and will include lessons in communications, policy change and public speaking. The workshop also allows for teambuilding and fun. By bringing BE Team students from each of the area high schools together, students report feeling connected to a bigger movement to end the tobacco epidemic.
Tristin Roman, a Lakewood High School senior, became a dedicated BE Team member after attending the Youth Advocacy Workshop three years ago. One of Tristin’s significant accomplishments as part of the BE Team involved testifying before the Golden City Council to advocate in favor of their smoke and vapor-free public places ordinance, which passed unanimously in August 2014 and became effective January 1, 2015. Additionally, Tristin was recently appointed the inaugural position of Youth Chair of the Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance, an alliance of individuals and organizations addressing tobacco use in Jefferson County. In response to his participation as a BE Team member, Tristin stated, “I am really glad I joined the BE Team because it has made me a better person and improved my life. I’ve become a better leader and public speaker.”
Most recently, Wheat Ridge High School BE Team members have been advocating for a stronger smoke and vapor-free public places ordinance in the City of Wheat Ridge through a variety of activities such as a cigarette butt pick-up in Discovery Park and testifying to Wheat Ridge City Council about their findings. If passed, the new ordinance would prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices in places that are smoke-free and would expand smoke and vapor-free protections to outdoor public recreation areas, city events, and outdoor transit waiting areas. The Council is expected to vote on this ordinance on October 12.