Pennsylvania First Lady, Secretary of Health Join National Celebrities To Promote Youth Tobacco-Prevention Efforts
STATE COLLEGE, Pa., March 15 /PRNewswire/ -- On behalf of Pa. Gov. Tom Ridge, First Lady Michele M. Ridge and Secretary of Health Robert S. Zimmerman Jr. today joined national celebrities to promote tobacco prevention at the Pennsylvania Tobacco Preventio
``Teens need to get the message that smoking isn't cool,'' Mrs. Ridge said. ``We need to work together to discourage young children from starting to smoke, and to help them understand the risks of tobacco use.''
In recognition of their efforts in the fight against tobacco use, Mrs. Ridge presented ``Pennsylvania Tobacco Prevention Leadership Awards'' to internationally renowned cover model and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson Christy Turlington; well-known tobacco-industry whistle blower Dr. Jeffrey Wigand; and musician Leslie Nuchow.
Turlington, through a national campaign to educate teens about addiction to tobacco products, has shared her story of losing her father to lung cancer and described her own personal battle to quit smoking.
``I want young people to understand that smoking isn't remotely glamorous,'' Turlington said. ``It's an addiction that can kill.''
Dr. Wigand, an internationally recognized public-health advocate, blew the whistle on American tobacco companies' efforts to get, and keep, smokers hooked. Dr. Wigand exposed the wrongdoing of Brown & Williamson despite threats to his career and the lives of those around him. Recently portrayed in the movie ``The Insider'' -- starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, and nominated for seven Academy Awards -- Dr. Wigand was the former vice president and head of research for the tobacco company.
Nuchow, a New York City-based singer, songwriter and activist, began Virginia SLAM!, an organization committed to exposing the deceptive marketing practices of Virginia Slims cigarettes and their former record label, Woman Thing Music.
The third-annual conference, ``Launching a New Millennium of Tobacco-Free Youth,'' drew together youth involved in tobacco-prevention programs from across the state. All young people attending the conference are between the ages of 13 and 18, and are active participants in a youth tobacco-prevention project.
``This conference is a great opportunity to highlight the Ridge Administration's commitment to eliminating teen tobacco use,'' Secretary Zimmerman said. ``Pennsylvania's `Stop the Sale -- Prevent the Addiction' campaign is aimed at reducing youth access to tobacco products in stores. Last year, the state launched a billboard-advertising campaign to discourage young people from smoking. And in January, Gov. Ridge proposed investing all of Pennsylvania's tobacco-settlement funds in initiatives to make Pennsylvanians healthier. Being healthy means being tobacco free.''
Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Tobacco Prevention Network builds and supports local, community-based, tobacco- prevention coalitions. Through its more than 60 local and regional coalitions across the state, concerned community residents, teachers, nurses, and other professionals educate, influence and maximize the effort to keep Pennsylvania's youth tobacco free.
According to the 1998 Behavioral Risks Factor Surveillance Survey, 24 percent of Pennsylvanians ages 18 and older smoke cigarettes. In Pennsylvania, almost 30 percent of high school seniors, 18 percent of ninth- graders, 7 percent of seventh-graders, and 2 percent of sixth-graders report that they smoked cigarettes daily.
Federal statistics report that smoking among high-school students increased by one-third from 1991 to 1997 -- from 27.5 percent to 36.4 percent.
In January, Gov. Ridge proposed investing Pennsylvania's multi-billion- dollar share of the national tobacco settlement in a broad range of initiatives to improve Pennsylvanians' health. Known as Pennsylvania's Health Investment Plan, the spending plan breaks down this way:
A new initiative to provide insurance for the uninsured, 40 percent; Tobacco prevention and cessation, 15 percent; An initiative to enable older Pennsylvanians to be cared for in their homes and communities, rather than in nursing homes, 15 percent;
Broad-based health research and health-care-related venture capital, 15 percent;
Uncompensated-care payments to hospitals, 10 percent; and
An endowment for the future, 5 percent.
The Youth Against Tobacco Campaign is a statewide campaign to encourage youth to take a pledge and unite to promote a tobacco-free society and a no-use message about tobacco.
The Ridge Administration launched the statewide ``Stop the Sale -- Prevent the Addiction'' campaign in December 1996. The campaign is aimed at reducing youth access to tobacco products, including strategies to meet federal requirements. Key elements of this campaign include educating retailers about their responsibility and obligations; conducting random, unannounced visits of Pennsylvania tobacco-retail outlets with youth volunteers; and establishing community partnerships. This initiative also includes a toll-free ``hotline'' to report unlawful tobacco sales and to respond to requests for information, 1-888-275-4434.
The Health Department also works with local and regional partners in federally funded compliance and enforcement programs, and supports outreach to discourage tobacco use.
For more information about Pennsylvania's tobacco-prevention efforts, visit the website at www.state.pa.us or directly at the Department of Health's website, www.health.state.pa.us. For more information about a youth tobacco use prevention project in your area, call the Pennsylvania Tobacco Prevention Network at 717-533-4718.