Sunday, April 21, 2024

Virginia Groups Aim to Reduce Youth Tobacco Use

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 2.8% (14,400) high school students smoke in Virginia. The percentage of high schoolers who use e-cigarettes is 14.3%, slightly higher than the percentage of adults who smoke, 12.4%. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — Virginia groups are using different methods to warn young people about the dangers of smoking.

Along with tobacco-free parks, the state has taken things to a legislative level to prevent youth from using tobacco. In 2022, House Bill 685 aimed to prevent the sale of tobacco products to Virginians under age 21.

The bill failed in committee. But the group “Henrico Too Smart 2 Start” has taken a collaborative approach through its social media “Influence the Influencers” contest.

Terrell Pollard, board chair of the Henrico Too Smart 2 Start, described the contest’s goals.

“The contest is to see what youth can earn the most ‘likes’ through a youth-created video about not using substances,” said Pollard. “And it does two things: One, incentivizes youth to be a part of youth substance use prevention strategies, as well as flood social media with healthy, positive messages.”

He said the idea stems from the increased substance-use issues that arose during the pandemic.

A 2022 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration found more than three million kids across the U.S. use tobacco products.

Going forward, Pollard said he hopes to make this an annual contest to bolster the group’s mission of youth tobacco-use prevention. However, he said there will be changes made to this contest in years to come.

“Because of the collaborative nature that the videos were created, we want to move to a format where we’re offering prizes to a group of students,” said Pollard. “So, it could be a school club, a school itself. We wanted to encourage that collaboration.”

The “Influence the Influencers” winners will be decided during the second week in June.

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