New Jersey Teens REBEL Against Tobacco at Two Regional Summits
LONG BRANCH, N.J., May 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Two Regional Summits welcomed, informed and motivated more than 500 members of REBEL (Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies), New Jersey's youth anti-tobacco movement, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior S
``These summits are a great opportunity for New Jersey's young people to learn about the hazards of smoking as well as how to take on the tobacco industry,'' said acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco. ``Armed with enthusiasm, creativity and the new knowledge they have gained, teens are now building their own youth anti-tobacco movement. They will help create a generation united against tobacco.''
``At the REBEL rally in February, New Jersey teens told Big Tobacco, 'We are Not For Sale,' '' said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant. ``Now they are taking that rallying cry statewide. They have even gone national! REBEL teens are prominently featured in the current issue of Teen People, and I am not at all surprised that they are making news. After all, they are the first generation to have the courage to stand up to Big Tobacco and declare their right to make an independent choice. They should be very proud.''
New Jersey was one of 12 states to receive the first grants awarded by the American Legacy Foundation (Legacy) in recognition of the state's youth tobacco use research and program planning developed by DHSS. Legacy is the national, independent, public health foundation established under the Master Settlement Agreement.
At the Regional Summits, REBEL teens united in a common goal to be 5,000 strong by year-end. ``We have already done a lot, but think what we can do with 5,000 members!'' said Joe Italiano, 15, of Hardyston, to the cheers of REBEL participants at the northern New Jersey closing ceremonies. ``It is up to us to get our friends involved, and I know we can do it.'' To meet the objectives of the rapidly growing movement, participants learned advocacy skills and how to develop community-based action plans. In innovative workshops, they practiced creative ways to deliver their messages to their friends, families and communities.
These Regional Summits are the first in a series using funds from the American Legacy Foundation grant. Teens from northern New Jersey attended the summit on May 12 and teens from southern New Jersey attended their summit on May 19.
According to recent surveys conducted by DHSS, nearly 27.6 percent of high school students and 10.5 percent of middle school students had smoked cigarettes in the last month. Preventing teens from starting to smoke is important, since more than 80 percent of adults who smoke had their first cigarette before they turned 18. Among New Jersey smokers, one third will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases. REBEL's mission is to successfully break this cycle and eliminate the single most preventable cause of death and disease in New Jersey.
REBEL is just one of many initiatives sponsored by DHSS and funded with money from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement between 46 states and the tobacco industry. New Jersey is one of only 15 states that are directing a substantial portion of these funds $30 million toward smoking prevention and cessation. New Jersey's Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program is designed to reduce the sickness, disability and death among New Jerseyans associated with the use of tobacco and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.