Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Public Health Invites Jeffco Students to Get Involved in Health and Tobacco Prevention

Jefferson County, CO--As a new school year begins, youth in Jefferson County are ramping up for another year of activities to reduce the toll of tobacco in their schools and communities. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, and nearly nine out of 10 people who use tobacco start by the age of 18. If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age, or one in every 13, are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. Additionally, studies suggest that nicotine acts to prime or sensitize the adolescent brain for addiction, indicating that effective prevention programs and interventions not only prevent smoking but also decrease the risk of youth progressing to illicit drug use and dependence.  

Both youth and adults in Jefferson County have many opportunities to get involved in the effort to end the tobacco epidemic and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

Opportunities for Youth to Get Involved
Breathe Easy (BE) Teams are youth clubs working on sustainable solutions to the problem of tobacco. Supported by their high schools and Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH), BE Teams work towards healthy, tobacco-free environments and preventing youth from initiating tobacco use. Currently, BE Teams exist at five Jefferson County high schools including Golden, Jefferson, Lakewood, Pomona and Wheat Ridge. For questions about the BE Team or to get involved, contact Zach Dunlop, Youth Engagement Specialist at JCPH at zdunlop@jeffco.us or 303-239-7169.

Both youth and adults are invited to get involved with the Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance (TFJA), a group of individuals and organizations addressing tobacco use in Jefferson County. As part of the TFJA, youth are encouraged to participate in meaningful ways, such as taking on leadership roles within the Alliance. This year, two BE Team students, Morgan Lester and Brittany Willis, earned youth co-chair roles for the TFJA. Please join Morgan, Brittany and the TFJA at the next quarterly meeting on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. For more information about the meeting, visit www.TobaccoFreeJeffco.com.

Youth Leader Highlights
Lakewood High School senior, Morgan Lester, has been a dedicated BE Team member and tobacco prevention advocate for over two years. She has skillfully engaged her peers, the Lakewood High School Parent Teacher Association and elected officials in various communities to support the BE Team’s tobacco prevention movement. One of her many successes involved helping to organize a cigarette butt pick-up at a local park, followed by a presentation of the outcomes to community leaders that successfully inspired change. Morgan also advocated in favor of a smoke and vapor-free public places ordinance in the City of Wheat Ridge, which successfully passed in October 2015.

Brittany Willis, a junior at Golden High School, has been a leading member of the BE Team for more than two years and is passionate about tobacco prevention. As part of the BE Team, Brittany recruited a number of her peers to join in the efforts to reduce the toll of tobacco in Jefferson County. She has also presented to the Golden City Council about the importance of strong smoke and vapor-free policies that protect everyone. On a personal level, she has helped family and friends quit tobacco and has brought the community together over shared values of health and wellness. During her free time, Brittany volunteers as an intern for the JCPH Tobacco Prevention Initiative.

NEW Paid Opportunity for Youth
This fall, the Tobacco Prevention Initiative will be able to give a few motivated youth part time, paid positions as members of the new Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). These youth will work a few hours each month to help promote health in Jefferson County! Youth who have faced challenges because of income, race, language, or other circumstances and youth who are bilingual are encouraged to apply. We are seeking students who are interested in teen health issues, leadership and making a positive difference. Students can apply at www.surveymonkey.com/r/96BF5L8. We encourage applications from youth between the ages of 13 and 20 who have strong communication skills, dedication, an interest in tobacco prevention and a desire to learn. For questions, contact Zach Dunlop at zdunlop@jeffco.us or 303-239-7169. JCPH supports workplace diversity and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender identity or expression, national origin, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability or any other protected class.

Upcoming Youth Advocacy Workshop
As part of a kick-off to the school year, JCPH sponsors an annual, intensive half-day Youth Advocacy Workshop (YAW) 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 Saturday, October 8, 2016, from 9am to 1:30 p.m at the Jefferson County Courts and Administration Building in Golden and will include lessons on policy change, social justice, professionalism and public speaking. The workshop also allows for teambuilding and fun. For more information about the workshop, contact Zach Dunlop at zdunlop@jeffco.us or 303-239-7169.

Tobacco Education Program for Teens
Concerned about youth tobacco use? Consider Second Chance, a web-based tobacco education program for middle school and high school youth. It is a FREE online, interactive and self-directed program intended to be used as an alternative to suspension. Second Chance may also help teens that have experimented with tobacco to recognize the harms of tobacco use and find support to quit. Ask your school administration if they offer the program or contact Jen Bolcoa at jjbolcoa@jeffco.k12.co.us or 303-982-6505.

Jefferson County Public Health continues to work toward reducing the toll of tobacco in our
communities through sustainable solutions to the problem of tobacco use and exposure.
To learn more about current initiatives and how to get involved, visit
tobaccofree@jeffco.us, or call 303-275-7555.

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