SOMERVILLE – Somerville Positive Forces, Junior Edition (SPFJr.), a youth division of Somerville Cares About Prevention (SCAP), took to the streets this week to promote smoking prevention messages 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 work to reduce youth substance abuse and related issues such as bullying. They are supported by SCAP, the Somerville Office of Prevention, and the Somerville Health and Human Services Department.
Through the “National Kick Butts Campaign,” SPFJr. works to alert their peers that the tobacco industry is targeting teens as replacement smokers. Their messages aim to increase awareness among youth that they are Big Tobacco targets, but they don’t have to be their replacement smokers.
SPFJr. conducted their awareness campaign in Somerville on March 18 by chalking prevention messages on the sidewalks, including, “MOST SHS DON’T SMOKE,” “#NotAReplacement,” “The84.org and 1-800-Quit NOW.” SPFJr. estimated that most of the approximately 1,200 SHS students saw the messages while traveling to and from school this week, in addition to the thousands of community members that utilize Somerville’s sidewalks each day.
Beyond promoting the harms of smoking, SPFJr. aims to promote awareness that 92% of Somerville High School students do not smoke cigarettes, as reported in the 2014 SHS Student Health Survey. In fact, tobacco use has steadily declined over the last decade with numerous public health efforts in Somerville, including this one, which has cigarette use among youth at an all-time low.
To expand our efforts beyond the sidewalks, we encourage youth to take a stand by join us on social media #NotAReplacement to finish the statement “I am not a replacement. I am a(n) …(artist, sister, activist, child, etc.)” and share these statements on our social media networks.
“Working on this campaign 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.
“We also want current smokers to know that there is help available through 1-800-Quit-Now,” shared Amritpal, SPFJr. Youth Leader
For more information about SPFJr. and SCAP, or to volunteer, please contact Lovelee Heller-Bottari at 617-625-6600 x4322 or LHeller@somervillema.gov. Visit our social media networks on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SomervilleCares and Twitter at https://twitter.com/SomCares. Visit kickbuttsday.org the84.org and makesmokinghistory.org to learn more about these tobacco prevention initiatives.