Jeffco Public Health campaigning against teen tobacco use

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Effort draws attention to industry tactics

By Chris Ferguson

Jefferson County Public Health has launched an education campaign titled “What’s in Store for Our Kids,” which highlights the ways in which the tobacco industry is targeting youths.

The program is the brainchild of Jeffco Public Health and the Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance. The campaign is designed to educate residents about how the tobacco industry is targeting kids in Jefferson County, and will encourage youth and adults to get involved in local tobacco prevention efforts.

“We want to raise awareness about how retail environments, community environments and home and workplace environments can all play a role in reducing youth tobacco use,” said Donna Viverette, health education program supervisor with Jeffco Public Health.

The campaign will feature posters and educational information and is being rolled out countywide at retailers and schools, she said. The posters portray a pre-teen girl being bombarded with tobacco products at a retailer.

The campaign is centered on how the tobacco industry uses marketing to appeal to youths, she said. That includes tobacco products which are candy- or menthol-flavored. Other products such as hookah, e-cigarettes or vapor devices are not yet regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. In the absence of regulations, such products often appear in self-service displays and are more visible and accessible to youths, Viverette said. Unlike traditional tobacco products, these are often less expensive and may be flavored, which appeals to younger consumers. 

“The threat to the health of our children is increasing as the tobacco industry targets children as replacement smokers for those who quit or die from tobacco-caused diseases. We need people to join us and stand between the tobacco industry and the youth of our communities,” said, Dr. Walter “Snip” Young, chairman of the Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance.

The campaign is a project of the health department’s youth prevention and health communication teams and is funded via the Amendment 35 excise tax grant project through the state health department, Viverette said.

“There is clearly a need in our state to address youth prevention,” she said. “Youth prevention for our community means a number of things. One, helping people understand what can be done to reduce the likelihood that a young person would start smoking, and helping parents and adult caregivers and organizations engage around those strategies.

“And also looking at what communities as a whole can do.”