Two members of the Maquoketa Valley High School Youth Tobacco Prevention group, MVTEL attended Youth Advocacy Day in Des Moines this week, accompanied by their advisor Geri Buelow, from Helping Services for Northeast Iowa. They joined many youth from all over the state who came together to send a message to legislators that in order to become the healthiest state in the U.S. we must address tobacco use, the number one preventable cause of chronic disease in Iowa.
MVTEL President Stacey Murray and member Stephanie LaGrant participated in workshops offered by youth advocates from I-STEP (Iowa Students for Tobacco Education and Prevention) in the morning to polish their advocacy skills. Then the girls went to meet with Senator Hancock. Senator Hancock took the time to bring the girls into the council chambers and talked with them at length. Senator Hancock told the girls they were great speakers and that they really knew their facts. He said that when he is weighing an issue and receives phone calls, personal letters, or e-mails or gets to meet with people in his district, it really makes a big difference. The students were really excited to get to meet Senator Hancock. The timing for this year’s Youth Advocacy Day could not have been better as both houses are or will be working on the Education bill which also includes a section on making all schools tobacco and nicotine free. Tobacco products will kill 4,600 Iowa tobacco users this year and 500 Iowans will die from secondhand smoke. “Coming down to Des Moines as a youth advocate for tobacco prevention and awareness was a great experience. It was a wonderful that Senator Hancock was willing to listen to what is important to us,” stated Stacey Murray. This experience was very influential and interesting. It’s mind-boggling that the state receives $295 million from the tobacco master settlement and taxes, but very little of that money goes toward youth tobacco prevention. It was nice to receive support from Senator Hancock,” commented Stephanie LaGrant. “It was an amazing experience to bring these youth to talk to their legislator’s one on one and have their voices heard.” said MVTEL advisor, Geri Buelow, Certified Prevention Specialist for Helping Services for NE Iowa.
Successful tobacco prevention programs more than pay for themselves in lives and health care dollars saved. Almost 90% of adult smokers started using tobacco products before the age of 18. “For every 1000 kids kept from smoking by these programs, future healthcare costs in the state decline by roughly $16 million, and for every thousand adults prompted to quit, future health costs drop by roughly $8.5 million”, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
If you are interested in getting more information about Youth Tobacco Prevention or have anyone in your family who has been affected by the devastating effects of tobacco use and you want to know how to become more involved please call Geri Buelow, at 563 582-5317. If you or someone you know would like more information about getting help to quit tobacco products please contact www.Quitlineiowa.org or call 1 800 Quit Now.