|From left: LaShana Harney, Tyler Boyle|
and Jessica Jones (Coriá Bowen photo)
A group of young people in a Bluegrass county with a strong tobacco tradition is trying to make the county's indoors smoke-free.
Students Making a Change in our Community started at Bourbon County High School in the late 1990s and was revamped in 2013 by several students and Cyndi Steele of the Bourbon County Health Department. SMACC members said they felt it was time for the voices of youth to be heard again on smoking issues.
“Our main idea is to try to establish a smoke-free ordinance in Bourbon County,” senior Lashana Harney said.
The group has been busy this year collaborating with other youth in Paris at events such as the 2013 National Kick Butts Day – a youth rally against tobacco use and secondhand smoke – as well as attending a recent Kentucky Supreme Court hearing on an anti-smoking ordinance enacted by the Bullitt County Board of Health.
“It was interesting to be at an actual case,” Harney said. “It could go either way with this case.”
Jessica Jones, a junior, said that while SMACC targets adults, it also educates and trains elementary students on how to say no to tobacco, and about the harms of smoking. “We’ve been traveling and training fifth-graders,” she said.
SMACC members are working towards a school regulation against electronic cigarettes, which they think are deceptive. They don’t believe their peers realize the harmful effects associated with them.
“E-cigarettes are becoming more popular than traditional cigarettes,” junior Tyler Boyle said. ““The best way to get to youth is other youth.”
The Kentucky Tobacco Policy Research Program lists chemicals in e-cigarettes that can have negative effects on health including acetone (nail polish remover) and formaldehyde. The legislature recently banned sales of e-cigarettes to people under 18.
Harney, Jones and Boyle say they have seen a decrease in their parents’ smoking since each student has become an anti-smoking advocate.
With Steele’s guidance, SMACC plans to keep educating and making its presence known in the community. Members will launch a group-written and directed YouTube video at the end of April that addresses secondhand smoke, titled, “It Could Be You.”
Steele said the road to banning smoking in public places for Bourbon County has been a work in progress for a long time: “I knew 20 years ago that when I chose to do this … it would be my career.” Now she has more help.