Local high school student invited to D.C. by U.S. Surgeon General

From the press release:

Washington, D.C., March 8, 2012 – Smoking kills more than 1,200 people every day with two new young smokers replacing each person who dies. That was one of the many statistics U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin shared today at a press conference on the release of her report on preventing young people from smoking. For North Carolina high school students Selay Demir and Tyler Long who sat a few feet from the podium where Benjamin stood, her words were a reminder of the work they have done, and all there is left to do in the state.

“I’m working to promote tobacco-free living in my community,” said Long. “Without sustainable funding, we won’t be able to implement the changes recommended by the surgeon general,” he said.

Long, from Asheville, N.C. and Demir, from Charlotte, N.C., are part of the Tobacco.Reality.Unfiltered (TRU) movement and members of Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!). YES! has played a lead role in local and statewide policy change in TRU, an initiative that has successfully reduced teen smoking in North Carolina to historic lows.

Since 2003, funding for the award-winning program and media campaign has been provided by North Carolina’s portion of the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, as approved by the General Assembly. The program’s future is uncertain after this funding year. Without funding, progress in reducing teen smoking in North Carolina will likely stall and smoking rates will eventually begin to climb to previous levels.

“We need sustainable, reliable funding for this work,” said Christine Laucher, team lead for YES!’s tobacco prevention work. “The TRU movement has given youth a voice in our state and an avenue for community change. Without funding for TRU we’d be alienating our young people as leaders and risking their health, and we’d all pay the price in the end,” she said.

During the press conference, Dr. Benjamin noted that today more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. Every year, she said, more than 1.4 million youth under the age of 18 try their first cigarette and many of them end up being lifelong smokers.

“It’s time for us to really end the single most preventable cause of death in this nation,” said Benjamin. “We can make the next generation tobacco-free.”


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