High school students in Bourbon County campaign for indoor smoking ban, also against teenagers’ use of e-cigarettes

From left: LaShana Harney, Tyler Boyle
and Jessica Jones
(Coriá Bowen photo)

By Coriá Bowen
Kentucky Health News

A group of young people in a Bluegrass county with a strong tobacco tradition is trying to make the county’s indoors smoke-free.

Students Making a Change in our Community started at Bourbon
County High School in the late 1990s and was revamped in 2013 by several
students and Cyndi Steele of the Bourbon County Health Department. SMACC
members said they felt it was time for the voices of youth to be heard again on
smoking issues.

“Our main idea is to try to establish a smoke-free ordinance
in Bourbon County,” senior Lashana Harney said.

The group has been busy this year collaborating with other youth
in Paris at events such as the 2013 National Kick Butts Day – a youth rally
against tobacco use and secondhand smoke – as well as attending a recent
Kentucky Supreme Court hearing on an anti-smoking ordinance enacted by the Bullitt County Board of Health.

“It was interesting to be at an actual case,” Harney said.
“It could go either way with this case.”

Jessica Jones, a junior, said that while SMACC targets
adults, it also educates and trains elementary students on how to say no to
tobacco, and about the harms of smoking. “We’ve been traveling and training fifth-graders,” she said.

SMACC members are working
towards a school regulation against electronic cigarettes, which they think are deceptive.
They don’t believe their peers realize the harmful effects associated with

“E-cigarettes are becoming
more popular than traditional cigarettes,” junior Tyler Boyle said. ““The best
way to get to youth is other youth.”

The Kentucky Tobacco Policy Research Program lists chemicals
in e-cigarettes that can have negative effects on health including acetone (nail
polish remover) and formaldehyde. The legislature recently banned sales of e-cigarettes to people under 18.

Harney, Jones and Boyle say
they have seen a decrease in their parents’ smoking since each student has
become an anti-smoking advocate.

With Steele’s guidance, SMACC
plans to keep educating and making its presence known in the community. Members
will launch a group-written and directed YouTube video at the end of April that
addresses secondhand smoke, titled, “It Could Be You.”

Steele said the road to
banning smoking in public places for Bourbon County has been a work in progress for a long time: “I knew 20 years ago
that when I chose to do this … it would be my career.” Now she has more help.
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