SPFJr. Youth Leaders Want Peers to Know, “Most SHS Students DON’T Smoke!”

Youth leaders work to prevent smoking among Somerville peers.

SOMERVILLE – Somerville Cares About Prevention (SCAP) announced today that its youth leadership group, Somerville Positive Forces, Junior Edition, will take to the streets on March 8 to promote smoking prevention messages in a colorful way along sidewalks around Somerville High School as part of the National “Kick Butts” Campaign. SPFJr. is a group of Somerville middle school students that work to reduce youth substance abuse and related issues such as bullying. Youth are supported by SCAP, the Somerville Office of Prevention, and the Somerville Health and Human Services Department.

SPFJr. leaders join the “National Kick Butts Campaign” for the eighth year in a row, to alert their peers that the tobacco industry is targeting teens as replacement smokers. Their messages aim to increase awareness among youth that they are Big Tobacco targets, but they don’t have to be their replacement smokers.

Consider these facts:

  • Each day, more than 1,000 youth become new regular smokers; roughly one-third of them will die prematurely from a tobacco-related disease.
  • The tobacco industry makes its products available in places young people regularly visit: convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies, mini-marts, and grocery stores.
  • Every day, as many as 100,000 young people around the world become addicted to tobacco. If current trends continue, 250 million children and young people alive today will die from tobacco-related diseases.

SPFJr. will conduct its awareness campaign in Somerville by chalking prevention messages on the sidewalks, including, “MOST SHS DON’T SMOKE,” “#IKICKBUTTS,” and “1-800-Quit NOW.” SPFJr. expects most of the approximately 1,200 SHS students to see their sidewalk messages as they travel to and from school this week, in addition to the thousands of community members that walk about our streets each day.

Beyond promoting the harms of smoking, the group also aims to promote the fact that 95% of Somerville High School students do not smoke cigarettes, as reported in the 2016 SHS Student Health Survey. In fact, tobacco use has steadily declined over the last decade with numerous public health efforts in Somerville, with cigarette use among youth at an all-time low.

“Many youth begin smoking because they think everyone is doing it. Simply spreading the word that ‘MOST DON’T’ can help save lives,” said Lovelee Heller-Bottari, SCAP Program Director. “Youth have tremendous power to reach their peers and influence their decisions. SCAP engages youth to make positive change around issues that impact their lives and campaigns like Kick Butts are at the heart of our work.  Year after year we do this campaign and are inspired again and again from the many positive outcomes, including a steady decline in smoking.”

“Working on this campaign was very eye opening. I saw so many students reading the messages and many asked questions, so we could really see that our work is reaching our peers,” said Jasmine Fridman, SPFJr. Youth Leader.

“To expand our efforts beyond the sidewalks, we encourage youth to take a stand by join us on social media (#IKICKBUTTS) and share the harms of tobacco on social media networks,” said Ben Buchheit, SPFJr. Youth Leader.

For more information about Somerville Positive Forces and Somerville Cares About Prevention or to volunteer, please contact:  Lovelee Heller-Bottari, SCAP Program Director, at 617-625-6600 x4322 or LHeller@somervillema.gov. Visit our social media networks on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SomervilleCare. Visit kickbuttsday.org, the84.org, and makesmokinghistory.org to learn more about these tobacco prevention initiatives.