Students from nine schools in ASD-W came together Oct. 9 for the TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use) youth forum organized by Public Health and the Healthy Learners in School program. Throughout the day, 95 students attended a variety of training and information sessions on tobacco use, e-cigarettes and vaping, and the importance of making good decisions and positive life choices. They will take this knowledge back to their schools to share with their peers.
"It's important for you as young leaders to think about the things that can pull you away from a quality, safe life," said Superintendent David McTimoney, noting the temptations for today's youth are far greater than they were in years past. He encouraged the students to promote respect, while sharing and talking about issues and the things they are learning and doing with their peers.
Guest speaker, Dr. David Scott, a nationally known, associate professor of sport psychology in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, gave a fun-filled address while asking the students to remember: "there is a consequence for every decision made," listen to that inner voice that tells you right from wrong, and choose your friends carefully because they can influence you." Some days life can be challenging, Scott said, but don't give up, stay positive and focused on your goals, while setting a good example for others. Actions speak louder than words. If you say you are going to do something, follow through and do it so people know your behaviour is consistent and trustworthy, he advised.
"You have your whole life ahead of you and I know you are going to do great things," Scott told the students. "Make good decisions for yourself because there are others who are looking to you to build a better future. We need you. The world is going to be a much better place when you take over."
Students also participated in a panel discussion with district staff about what they think needs to be done to prevent tobacco use and vaping at school such as smoke detectors or sensors in washrooms, sharing more health information with students especially before they reach high school, ensuring there are real consequences for breaking school rules, providing access to rehabilitation programs for re-offenders, encouraging peer mentoring, and including facts on the effects of vaping in the school curriculum.
"Kids need to hear it's not cool and it's not going to make you more popular," one student told the panel.
Joanna Seeley, public health nurse for the Healthy Learners program in ASD-W, provided a presentation on the health risks and how e-cigarettes and vaping are marketed to today's youth, explaining that tobacco companies are looking to replace aging and often dying smokers with a new generation of customers to supply the $19 billion industry. Companies are advertising on social media channels and marketing e-cigarettes and vaping as appealing, flavourful and trendy habits to get youth buying and using their products.
"Know you are targeted and don't let companies manipulate you," Seeley said. "It's the same old strategy with a new look. Everyone knows that smoking is bad. But it is not safer to vape than to smoke. Vaping contains nicotine. It is addictive and still produces a chemical by-product."
Studies show 88 per cent of smokers start smoking before the age of 18. Half of all smokers will develop an illness related to smoking and may experience an early death. There are new reports of lung disease and death related to vaping among youth in the United States and Canada.
The TATU youth forum took place at Oromocto High School.
Shown in the photos below (1) Dr. David Scott, guest speaker for students at the TATU youth forum; (2) Superintendent David McTimoney welcoming students to the forum; (3) Students with district staff during a panel discussion; (4) Joanna Seeley, public health nurse, presenting information to students on health risks and marketing trends for e-cigarettes and vaping.