Coalition Working to Educate Kids About Tobacco
A renewed effort behind the Clay County Prevention Coalition is already noticeable, as the group is moving forward with its efforts to provide resources and information to children and adults throughout the entire county. A group of 16 individuals representing all three Clay County school districts was joined by new tobacco prevention and cessation coordinator for Clay County, Sara Dollins, and Dorothy Newsom, coordinator of Prevention Resource Center for Northeast Arkansas, at the Rector Community Center Tuesday to discuss ongoing ways to educate young residents on the dangers of tobacco use.
"I'm excited," Newsom told those gathered. "This is the biggest coalition meeting we've had in a long time."
Dollins noted the individual schools in Clay County have programs underway to help educate students, including Red Ribbon Week and D.A.R.E., adding the success of these programs is dependent upon the efforts of all involved.
While Dollins feels focus needs to remain on pre-adult awareness, she also pointed out the importance of raising adult awareness to the dangers of tobacco use. For instance, the group discussed the number of parents who smoke in their cars, with poor ventilation, while driving with small children. Dollins suggested involving medical centers in discouraging such behaviors, with the possibility of medical staff pointing out the potential dangers.
"That's a pet peeve of mine," Dollins said of the risk to children.
Newsom provided some research data to the group, gathered upon a study in Clay County. The research, compiled in the 2012-2013 school year, indicated: 25 percent of high school seniors polled had used cigarettes within the past 30 days of the survey; 28.2 percent of sophomores polled had smoked cigarettes within the past 30 days of the survey and 6.4 percent of eighth graders had used cigarettes within 30 days of taking the survey.
Smokeless tobacco use was also charted by the report, with the following results: 19.2 percent of seniors had used smokeless tobacco; 17.4 percent of sophomores had used smokeless tobacco and 5 percent of eighth graders had used smokeless products, all within 30 days of the poll.
Newsom noted use of tobacco products within the past 30 days, as in the survey, is typically a sign of regular use.
Newsom noted there were some positive signs, though. With the latest figures in place, the amount of cigarette use has dropped from 36 percent in 2009-2010 to its current 25 percent.
"It's easy to focus on the negatives, and they're there," Newsom said. "But, if one in four teens is smoking, then three out of four are not. Our drug free school programs increase awareness o the fact most teens choose not to use."
Another area upon which the Coalition is focusing is the importance of grant funds. Dollins' position was made available through a grant received in 2013, through student group application. Additional grants, which would allow for the position to continue in 2015, are currently available at the community level. Additionally, future grants for student groups will be available down the road, with the current period having completed.
"These grants are so important," Newsom noted. "This is the first time we've had someone like Sara, who is paid through the grant we received, here in Clay County. I'd hate to see us not continue that in the future."
Those interested in learning more about the Clay County Prevention Coalition are encouraged to contact their local schools or email Newsom at firstname.lastname@example.org