Somerville youth leaders work to prevent smoking among peers in national “Kick Butts Day” Campaign

SOMERVILLE – Somerville Cares About Prevention (SCAP) Program Director, Lovelee Heller-Bottari announced today that Somerville Positive Forces, Junior Edition (SPFJr.), will take to the streets
on April 9 to promote smoking prevention messages and The84.org in a colorful way along sidewalks around Somerville High School as part of the national “Kick Butts” Campaign. SPFJr. is a group of Somerville middle school students that works to reduce youth substance abuse and related issues and is supported by SCAP, the Somerville Office of Prevention, and the Somerville Health Department. “The 84” is a statewide movement of youth fighting Big Tobacco to make Massachusetts healthier and tobacco-free for youth.

SPFJr. leaders have joined the national “Kick Butts” campaign to alert their peers that the tobacco industry is targeting teens with new candy-flavored products. SPFJR. aims to educate peers on the dangers of tobacco and tobacco advertising with local messages like, “Candy flavors can’t hide the truth,” “Don’t fall for Big Tobacco’s sweet lies!” and “Sweet doesn’t equal safe, smoking kills.”

SPFJr. will conduct its educational campaign in Somerville by chalking these messages and other facts pertaining to tobacco on public sidewalks.

“Many youth begin smoking because they think everyone is doing it, simply spreading the word that ‘most don’t’ can truly help save lives in the end,” said Heller-Bottari. “Not only does SPFJR. aim to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco, but the group promotes the positive social norms of Somerville teens. Youth have tremendous power to reach their peers and influence their decisions. Engaging youth to make positive change around issues that impact their lives is at the heart of our work, and it’s what makes our program incredibly successful on so many levels.”

89% of Somerville High School students do not smoke cigarettes, as reported in the 2012 SHS Student Health Survey. In fact, tobacco use has steadily declined over the last decade with numerous public health efforts like this one in Somerville, which have cigarette use among our youth at an all time low.

“Working on this campaign last year was very eye opening. I saw so many students reading the messages and many asked questions, so we could really see that our work is reaching our peers,” said Nelema Basith, SPFJr. Youth Leader.

“SPFJr. is an influential program, and this activity helps to show the public that smoking isn’t as cool as some may think, it can ruin lives. We helped promote to people that quitting can be a positive life changer,” said SPFJr. Youth Leader, Shannon Higgins.

SPF expects most of the 1,300 SHS students will see their sidewalk messages as they travel to and from school, not to mention thousands of community members that walk about our streets each day. SPF youth hope others will share their smoking prevention messages for youth on our Somerville Positive Forces Facebook and Somerville Cares About Prevention Facebook pages and check out their campaign photos.

For more information about Somerville Positive Forces and Somerville Cares About Prevention or to volunteer, please contact: Lovelee Heller-Bottari, SCAP Program Director, at 617-625-6600 x4322 or LHeller@somervillema.gov. Visit kickbuttsday.org the84.org and makesmokinghistory.org to learn more about these tobacco prevention initiatives.

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