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Tobacco Prevention, Control Program puffing out smoking locally, statewide

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
February 23, 2009
— Five middle schoolers walked into the Madison Elementary classroom singing the NIKE Chant, capturing the attention of the second-graders sitting on the floor.
“NIKE: Nicotine Is Kids’ Enemy,
“NIKE: Nicotine Is Kids’ Enemy.
“Your lungs,
“your lungs,
“your lungs are on fire.
“We don’t need to smoke,
“just stomp those cigarettes out.
“Stomp,
“Stomp,
“Stomp it out!’’

Last year, 200 peer advocates in the Rock County Youth2Youth program reached 6,000 children in 100 schools with their substance-free lifestyle message, said Debbie Fischer, Youth2Youth program director.


“The hope is that these teens will help other youth make the decision to never pick up the deadly addiction of tobacco or other drug use,” she said.


Fischer and Youth2Youth students will be taking their message to the Legislature to try and prevent Wisconsin’s state budget crisis from draining Y2Y funding, she said.


Funding concerns

Wisconsin is facing a $5.75 billion budget deficit, and after listening to Gov. Jim Doyle give his State of the State address in January, Fischer said she’s “very concerned.”


Youth2Youth is funded through the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, which gets money from the state’s general budget because there is no tobacco lawsuit settlement money left.


Fischer said the governor’s budget proposal calls for a 12 percent cut in tobacco prevention funding, but she’s not sure how that will affect the amount of money delivered to the Rock County program.


In 2000, Youth2Youth in Rock County received $160,000. But when tobacco settlement money was used to plug a state budget hole in 2001, funding to Youth2Youth was cut to $75,000 a year for 2001 to 2008.


Youth2Youth got an increase of $15,000 for 2009, but funding for 2010 and beyond is uncertain.


Fischer said Youth2Youth members already of talked to legislators about the importance of funding, and they will testify in front of the Joint Finance Committee as it considers the state budget.


Program background

Youth2Youth, formerly was known as the Rock County Tobacco-Free Coalition, started in 1991 as a volunteer organization. It received $37,000 in American Stop Smoking Intervention Study funds in 1993 to hire a director. Fischer was hired a staff member in 1995 and became director in 1998.


Money has been used to create more than a half dozen programs that help people quit smoking and to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco, Fischer said.


A big part of that is educating youth, telling them what the tobacco industry is up to, such as spending $13.4 billion on marketing nationwide. Of that, an estimated $276.1 million is spent each year in Wisconsin, she said.


“When youth are taught tobacco facts at an early age by peers, they’re able to stand up to peer pressure,” Fischer said.


Program effectiveness

Rock County Youth2Youth has been “very effective,” Fischer said.


“And that’s not just me saying that. It’s the numbers saying that. Every survey on smoking rates is down and our program is part of the reason,’’ she said.


The Partners In Prevention youth survey, conducted every two years, shows that cigarette smoking among Janesville sixth graders dropped 8 percent from 1994 to 2006. During those same years, smoking cigarettes dropped 19 percent among 12th graders, the survey showed.


Since the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Control Program started in 2000, middle school smoking dropped 65 percent in the state. It dropped 36 percent among high schoolers and 22 percent among adults, according to a January 2009 fact sheet created by SmokeFree Wisconsin & The Tobacco Control Resource Center for Wisconsin.


But Fischer said work remains.


Statewide, 21 percent of adults smoked in 2008, but in Rock County it was 28 percent, according to new figures just released by the Rock County Health Department.


“Even though the numbers are dropping, the need is still there to educate and advocate,” Fischer said.


YOUTH2YOUTH PROGRAMS

Rock County Youth2Youth programs include:


-- Too Good for Drugs—An elementary school age program at neighborhood centers and after-school programs.


-- NIKE (Nicotine is Kids’ Enemy)—A peer-education program where middle school students give presentations to elementary school kids about a substance-free lifestyle.


-- Youth2Youth—A high school peer-education program that shares their knowledge with middle and high school youth.


-- FACT (Fighting Against Corporate Tobacco)—A youth-driven movement with the mission of turning the tables on corporate tobacco by exposing their lies.


-- TEG/NOT—(Tobacco Education Group and Not on Tobacco)—A teen cessation program designed to help kids quit tobacco.


-- Positive Teen of the Month—Recognizes the positive impact youth have on communities.


-- Youth Voice—A project developed by teens in the summer of 2008 with a focus of sharing information to Beloit teens about volunteer opportunities, recreation activities for teens and ways to use their voices through advocacy.



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