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Letter: Positive role models critical to initiative

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Stephanie Truly


Received: Jan. 24

Contrary to popular belief, there are still smokers in our community. As long as tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable death, is still causing death in our community, there is work to be done. Indeed, tobacco control efforts have curtailed smoking locally and at the state level. Smoking rates are at an all-time low in the state at 25.6 percent. Bartholomew County’s smoking rate is just slightly higher at 25.8 percent. Neither of those numbers will diminish if we do not focus our efforts on cessation and, most importantly, prevention!

More than 9,800 Indiana youth become new daily smokers each year. Tobacco companies can no longer shy away from the facts that their products cause death and disease. They should not get away with their tactics to attract youth to their deadly products either.

Nearly all regular smokers first picked up the habit when they were teenagers, under the age of 19. There are youth in the Columbus community that started smoking as early as 5 years old. In that regard, we have failed those children.

Some people think tobacco use is no longer an issue, that’s because they survived that critical point. They did not fall victim to the tobacco companies’ false claims to make you slimmer, look cooler, or fit in with the “in-crowd.” There are too many youth, 18 percent in high school and 4.3 percent in middle school (state of Indiana statistics) that have not been able to rise above the influence of tobacco use in the home, friends, and the lure of the tobacco companies with new and emerging products, tested right here in the state of Indiana.

Youth are easy targets for the tobacco industry. They’re often influenced by TV, movies, advertising, and by what their friends do and say. Teens don’t realize how hard it is to quit. Young people don’t think much about future health consequences. Developing cancer, emphysema, blindness, or impotence doesn’t seem like a real concern to them.

There should be no more excuses for these kids to not have positive influences in their lives that are living healthy lifestyles. There is no reason for a young person in this community to be undereducated about the dangers of tobacco use. It will take a community to make them aware. It will take a community to help them quit, and it will take a community to help them not become one of the 9,700 adults in Indiana that die every year from tobacco use.

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health provides compelling new evidence that states can significantly reduce youth smoking by implementing well-funded tobacco prevention programs, increasing the price of cigarettes through higher taxes and enacting strong smoke-free air laws. We know what it takes to win the battle against tobacco, but we have to work together and drive political will towards implementing evidence-based strategies that are proven to work for the greater good.

We need former smokers that do not want to see a child go through what they had to go through to quit smoking. We need role models that are willing to do the work to show kids that tobacco use is not cool. We need people that are going to fight for higher cigarette taxes. We need parents, faith-based leaders, universities, and educators to be at the table to stop the tobacco epidemic. Join the Tobacco Awareness Action Team, a REACH Healthy Communities Initiative to be involved. Call 812-375-3194 for more information.

Stephanie Truly is a representative of the Tobacco Action Awareness team in Bartholomew County.

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