Mississippi Takes Anti-Tobacco Advocacy to the Pulpit; State Invests Anti-Tobacco Funding in Faith Based Programs, According to the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi
JACKSON, Miss., Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- In an effort to reach deeper into the state, the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi has granted more than $250,000 of its anti-tobacco funding to churches and other faith-based organizations across the state. The
``The faith community provides an invaluable perspective in our fight against tobacco,'' says Mike Moore, Attorney General and Chairman of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. ``Addiction is not just a condition of the body, but of the spirit. It destroys the family structure through premature illness and death, and prevents us from living up to the best that we can be. We are calling upon our spiritual leaders to help us fight our cultural reliance on tobacco - and we know they will answer that call.''
The current faith-based program is an expansion of a program funded by the Partnership last summer for the S.W.A.T. program (Students Working Against Tobacco). The pilot program focused primarily on teaching junior high students life resiliency skills through faith-based day camps. The new program has been expanded to include youth of all ages and their families in a primarily faith-based setting led by religious leaders around the state.
``As the home state of the original Marlboro Man, tobacco has long been a way of life for Mississippi,'' said Cindy Widdig, Targeted Projects Coordinator at the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. ``Changing the culture means changing our communities - from the youngest child to the most respected adult, from the statewide legislature to the local church. The joint effort between the Partnership and the faith community was ideal because, historically, Mississippi churches have led the way toward social change.''
According to research, nearly 50% of Mississippi teens that smoke started when they were between the ages of 11 and 13. Research has indicated that youth in grades 4-7 are making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.
``It is vital to reach young people before they start using tobacco and other drugs,'' says Kelly Dumas, Communications Director for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. ``After the success of the first program, we understood the value of continuing to work with the faith community. The goal of this program is to arm faith-based organizations with the resources they need to help our youth from ever picking up their first cigarette.''
``I'm proud to join in the Partnership's fight against tobacco,'' notes Reverend Matthew Canada, who will be participating in the Partnership's efforts through Pilgrim Rest M.B. Church in Madison. ``I have personally seen the destruction that tobacco can cause in our community, and can think of no greater service than helping to ease that suffering. Our faith in God can free us from all the chains that bind us -- including the chains of nicotine addiction.''
The non-profit organization awarded 100 mini-grants of up to $2,500 for faith-based organizations to conduct anti-tobacco learning activities for youth in grades 4-7, and to offer cessation information to older teens and adults who influence youth behavior. The projects will run January 1, 2000 - May 31, 2000.
The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi is a non-profit organization made up of more than 60 statewide governmental and non-governmental agencies and more than 600 local organizations. The Partnership is dedicated to offering Mississippi youth healthy, tobacco-free alternatives. The Partnership is funded through a $62 million award from the tobacco industry separate from the state's $4 billion settlement.