8/6/2012–More than two dozen Missouri high school and college students will attend the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Kansas City, August 14-17. The Tobacco Free Missouri board will hold a private welcome for selected students, as well as other Kansas City area students, the night of August 14. The students will assist with the youth activism event on Thursday, August 16 to raise awareness of tobacco issues in Missouri and attend conference sessions.
Speakers at the conference will include Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tobacco Free Missouri congratulates college students: Cindy Calender, Philomina Amofa and Jamie Shank of Missouri State University; Andrea Cherry, Brittney Vigna, Jared Kepko and Emily Andsager of the University of Missouri.
High school students in attendance will be: Rebecca Bade, Marissa Beavers, Paul Becker and Alyssa Bradley of New Bloomfield R-III; Emily and Jessica Thomeczek, Johnna Lasby and Rachel Nemes of Hannibal; Ashley Henry, Megan Jeffries, and Jared Koller of Kansas City, representing Youth With a Vision of Tri County Mental Health Services; Alex Higginbotham of Odessa R-VII; Hattie and Nick Wright of North Shelby; Daniel Giuffra and Maria Torres Galvan of St. Louis, representing Casa De Salud; and Hailey Rundel, Madison Kellums and Brittney Lodrigue of Southland C-9.
“This is the first time ever that so many students have had the opportunity to attend the national conference so everyone is really excited,” said Joyce Lara, Tobacco Free Missouri Youth Coordinator. “A mixture of high school and college students is a welcome addition. We hope our future high school students realize they can keep their passion well beyond those high school years.”
The students, along with other attendees, can choose among a wide range of conference sessions over the four-day conference, including more than 20 oral and poster presentations by Tobacco Free Missouri members. Topics will include developing media messages, smokeless tobacco control strategies, and promoting community partnerships. A session devoted to youth-related topics will cover school-based tobacco prevention programs, countering tobacco advertising aimed at youth; and developing youth outreach programs for tobacco-control campaigns.
Youth activism is important because peer influence is one of the most powerful factors effecting the decision to start smoking. In Missouri, high school students who smoke are three times as likely to have at least one friend who smokes compared to non-smokers, according to the 2011 Missouri Youth Tobacco Survey. Evidence suggests that youth smoking can be prevented through smokefree policies, as youth are less likely to see smoking behavior modeled by adults.