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Each day, nearly 3,200 people younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette. If smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans under the age of 18 - or about 1 in every 13 young people - could die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.
Statistics like these make the No Tobacco Challenge such an important initiative in Douglas, Sarpy and Cass counties.
Thousands of third-graders in 517 classrooms across these communities recently completed the No Tobacco Challenge, a creative way to engage students and have discussions about dangers of tobacco and the importance of making healthy life choices.
The program culminates with an artwork project with each student portraying their commitment to a tobacco-free life. One child’s artwork is chosen from a pool of finalists and this year’s grand prize winner is Axton Sayles, who is a student at West Dodge Station in Elkhorn.
“The creative expressions from these third graders definitely demonstrate an understanding about the importance of taking care of themselves and the world around them,” said Deb Meyers RN and program manager for the Methodist Lung Thoracic Oncology Clinic. “This is a program that has grown every year and as more children get the message we hope parents will also.”
Axton’s artwork will be featured on two outdoor billboards and will receive a $25 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. Her class will also receive a $200 Barnes and Noble gift certificate following a celebration party to be held at West Dodge Station.
Runner-up participants included students from Chandler View, Sagewood, Springville, St. Pius X/St. Leo and Thomas elementary schools. All winning artwork will be featured on www.motac.org/no-tobacco-challenge and www.bestcaretoday.com.
The No Tobacco Challenge was a program first implemented by Methodist Health System. In 2016, Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC), and Tobacco Education & Advocacy of the Midlands (T.E.A.M.) joined forces to expand the reach of the tobacco-free message. Classroom instruction and activities are derived from a program sponsored by Scholastic.
Funding for this project is provided by Methodist Health System and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.