“We are taking specific steps to help improve Michigan’s grades on the annual Tobacco Report Card,” said Teresa Sington, who coordinates tobacco control efforts for the Health Department, referring to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2007 report, released recently. Michigan earned “F”s in tobacco prevention and control spending, smokefree air, and youth access, and a “B” for its cigarette tax. The full report can be accessed on-line at www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.
Locally, the Health Department’s efforts also involve high school students, who are a key group in which to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco use, smoking, and secondhand smoke. According to the 2004 Michigan Youth Tobacco Survey, 80 kids try their first cigarette in Michigan every day and another 50 become daily smokers. The survey also shows that 17 percent of high school students are smokers.
“Our message to youth is three-fold,” Sington said. “Don’t smoke, quit if you do, and stay away from secondhand smoke.”
Two Charlevoix County schools, Boyne Falls Public School and Charlevoix High School, surveyed students about their tobacco use in November 2007 as part of the BCBSM project. The majority of local students surveyed have not smoked or used other forms of tobacco in the past 30 days (86% and 85% respectively), although possibility of smoking in the future is not this strong.
517 surveys were distributed in the high schools and 389 14 to 18 year olds completed them, a 75% return rate. Tobacco prevention education is a key activity for all 27 high schools participating in the Blues’ statewide campaign, including Boyne Falls High School and Charlevoix Middle School.
Also part of the project is a local media campaign consisting of radio advertisements, print advertisements, and cinema ads, targeting youth in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. The ads were developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & Prevention.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about any of the Health Department’s tobacco control activities, visit www.nwhealth.org. Individuals seeking information or help are directed to the Michigan Tobacco Quitline at 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).