Life’s a Kick! Don’t Start Tobacco
Michigan data indicate that 34.1 percent of high school students in the state smoke. Of students in grades 9-12, 72 percent have reported trying cigarettes. These increases have taken place in virtually every socioeconomic group, among both boys and girls, and in both urban and rural communities. Research has also shown that kids will first be encouraged to try cigarettes in elementary school. Many young people begin smoking between the sixth and ninth grades. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in Michigan. It kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.
What is “Life’s A Kick! Don’t Start Tobacco”?
The Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development program, “Life’s A Kick! Don’t Start Tobacco” is a youth tobacco use prevention program for out-of-school-time, designed to educate children in grades 4 to 8 about the effects of tobacco use on the human system. The goal of the program is to prevent tobacco use before children reach age 15. The educational materials for the program use the national Centers for Disease Prevention and Control guidelines for effective tobacco prevention education. The curriculum trains adults and older teens to work with children in community-based, out-of-school environments.
It offers ways to:
- Build the capacity of communities to provide training and on-going support to adult and older teen volunteers to meet the current and long-range needs of young people during their out-of-school hours with anti-tobacco programming.
- Build specific anti-tobacco use skills in youth participants that increase their decision-making, problem-solving and other life skills; delay and postpone their decision to use tobacco products; help youth understand the effects (health, economic, social) of tobacco use; and help youth understand the influence and impact of tobacco advertising.
- Provide opportunities for other members of young people’s families (parents, volunteers, siblings, etc.) to get involved in out-of-school programming efforts.
Become a “Life’s A Kick! Don’t Start” Teen Health Educator! Make a difference in your community by teaching youth ways to be more healthy and happy and avoid tobacco use.
Do A Community Service Project
Here are some community service projects that you or your club can do to help others in your community learn about the effects of tobacco. Before you get started, here are some steps to a successful tobacco use prevention community service project:
- Identify the tobacco use situation, problem or need in your community.
- Set goals and explore alternative solutions to get the information out on tobacco.
- Check out resources within your community.
- Select the best solution and develop a plan of action.
- Contact proper authorities for permission and support.
- Gather resources. Your local tobacco coalition or county health department and tobacco Web sites are some great resources for materials and people.
- Publicize and inform the community on the effects of tobacco use.
- Carry out your plan of action.
- Make adjustments when necessary.
- Talk about what was accomplished, its impact and how you feel about it.
- Plan follow-up.
- Give recognition to all the people who helped you accomplish your service goals (via the media or thank-you notes).
- Tell your story. Make sure your schools, your local media, health organizations and others committed to youth tobacco use prevention know what you’ve done.
Some tobacco prevention community service projects might include:
- Make anti-tobacco use posters, stickers and flyers to put up at your local school, community center, fairgrounds, parks, recreation facilities or local businesses. Or look at ads in magazines and rewrite or design them to tell the truth about tobacco.
- Make special occasion cards with anti-tobacco messages for friends and families.
- Send a letter to your state legislators to let them know how you feel about all the tobacco ads that litter the local convenience stores. Or encourage them to keep increasing the excise taxes on cigarettes. If the cost keeps going up, youth are more likely not to start smoking.
- Clean up tobacco litter around parks, schools, community centers, etc.
For more information on how to get involved as a youth or volunteer, contact your county MSU Extension office or:
B’Onko Sadler, Associate Program Leader