Tobacco prevention education praised
HATTIESBURG â€” Tobacco prevention teacher education programs have contributed to a dramatic decrease in smoking among Mississippi youth, anti-tobacco advocates contend.
According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research, smoking among high school students in Mississippi has decreased 10 percent since 1998. Among public middle school students, that figure is 21 percent. These numbers exceed a national trend that show teenage smoking decreased less than 2 percent between 1997 and 1999.
The University of Southern Mississippi Center for Tobacco Prevention and Health Promotion conducts teacher education on tobacco prevention and provides free classroom materials.
Teachers are trained in one of four programs, depending on the age of their students, said Vivien Carver, the center's director.
Almost 2,700 teachers in 26 counties have been trained in tobacco prevention since the program began in 1999, expending more than $250,000, said Sonny Woodard, operations manager.
The center is one outreach of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, a pilot program aimed at reducing tobacco use that has been held up as a model for the nation.
The partnership, funded by settlement dollars from Attorney General Mike Moore's 1998 lawsuit against the tobacco industry, is a comprehensive tobacco prevention program that is working to reduce smoking rates.
A recent Chicago Tribune article cited Mississippi as one of the few states in the nation that have such programs.