South county students learn to 'SpeakOUT' against tobacco use

<I>Contributed photo</I><BR>Ilwaco and Naselle students came together to fight harmful tobacco use. Front row: Keenan Keely, Keith Reitz, Emily Gjovik, David Blaylock; middle row: Whitney Wofford, Mikaela Smith, Kylie Byrd, Cassie Van Dusen, Nicole Tarabachia, Vickie Corona; back row: Carlos Pimentel, Sylvia Sebastian, Emily MacDonald, August Frame Agosto, Jake Condon, Trevin Leeland, Austin Smith.

PACIFIC - In celebration of the Great American Smokeout, 17 middle and high school students from Ilwaco and Naselle participated in a one-day tobacco prevention training.

Thursday, Nov. 18, marked the 35th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout, which began in 1976 as a day to encourage smokers to quit at least for one day. In an effort to encourage people to quit smoking, local youth participated in a SpeakOUT training at the technology building in Ilwaco. The event was organized by Pacific County Health and Human Services and the training was sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

During these trainings, the students learned about how they could make a positive impact on their peers regarding the consequences of tobacco use. The youth who participated in the SpeakOUT training were able to plan activities to "speak out" against tobacco use in their school and community.

By participating in SpeakOUT, these students are able to develop and practice important skills which can be applied to working with community coalitions to make a difference in their local community. In addition, these skills can also be used to tackle other issues or concerns related to creating a healthier environment for youth and adults.

Ilwaco High School students who participated in the training were August Frame Agosto, Emily MacDonald, Whitney Wofford, Carlos Pimentel, Mikaela Smith, Kylie Byrd and Sylvia Sebastian. These students are members of Ilwaco's YAK (Youth Action Klub). YAK members work to help educate their peers about the dangers of drug and alcohol use and the rewards of living a healthy lifestyle.

Naselle Middle/High School students who attended the training were Keith Reitz, David Blaylock, Jake Condon, Victoria Corona, Cassie Van Dusen, Trevin Leeland, Austin Smith, Nicole Tarabachia, Emily Gjovik and Keenan Keely.

Recent survey data showed that about 26 percent of adults in Pacific County smoke cigarettes, which is a reduction from 29 percent reported in 2004. Although this is good news, there is still work to do; nearly one out of every six 12th grade students report that they currently smoke cigarettes, and almost 20 infants each year are born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy.

If you are interested in quitting tobacco, the Washington Tobacco Quit Line (800-QUIT-NOW) is a free resource to anyone who calls. Callers can be connected with a trained professional who can answer questions and provide resources and further assistance to help you or someone you know quit.

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