By Lacy Hilliard
Johnson County was awarded a $50,000 grant on April 2, by the Tennessee Department of Health in order to aid in smoking cessation and prevention programs predominantly aimed at tweens and teens.
According to various studies conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health in partnership with the Johnson County Health Council; Johnson County eighth graders are nearly twice as likely to have used tobacco products in the past 30 days when compared to the state average. It is statistics like those that inspired Health Department officials to take action in Johnson County. Deputy Commissioner of Health Bruce Behringer presented the $50,000 check to Mayor Larry Potter at the Johnson Count Courthouse. Behringer noted at the event, The unfortunate statistics in reference to teen smoking in Johnson County prove the importance of implementing new programs.
The new smoking cessation and prevention programs will be implemented in three phases. The first, Trash the Can, which has already been launched at Johnson County Middle School, is aimed at preventing the use of smokeless tobacco products. The HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) Club will work to execute the Trash the Can program on a larger scale throughout the school district. As the program progresses, the HOSA Club will measure the success of Trash the Can and use the statistics generated to compete in a National HOSA competition.
The second phase of the grant funded smoking cessation and prevention programs will be in the form of peer-based awareness. TATU or Teens Against Tobacco Use is unique in that it will be fully implemented by high school students. Educators will recruit and train upstanding students to take part in TATU. Upon completion of their training, the high school students will then teach about the hazards of tobacco use at the elementary school level. The American Lung Association provides the educational literature and training for the TATU program.
The third component of the grant is the STOP program. Developed in cooperation with Middle Tennessee State University, the STOP program uses data collected by MTSU to better develop anti-smoking policies and programs throughout the school district.
The numbers show that Johnson County is at a high risk when it comes to youth smoking, stated Caroline Hurt who is the current director of both Johnson and Carter County Health Departments. Prevention programs are proven to not only save lives but also money. The main focus is the health a prosperity of Tennesseans, said Hurt.
The Johnson County Health Department will continue to promote anti-smoking awareness in county youth and adults and will also provide additional focus to pregnant women who smoke. A recent study showed that of an average of 148 live births in Johnson County, 54 of those babies are born to mothers that smoke. This number is higher than any other county in Tennessee and the effect poses a significant health risk. Currently, the top three health problems faced by citizens of Johnson County are cancer, heart disease and chronic respiratory disorders; all three are proven hazards of tobacco use.
If youre a Tennessee resident that wants to quit smoking, visit www.tnquitline.com or call 1-800-QUIT NOW. It just might save your life.
By Lacy Hilliard