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Each day, nearly 2,000 people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, and more than 300 become daily cigarette smokers. If smoking continues at the current rate, 5.6 million Americans currently under 18 – or about 1 in 13 – will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses.
It’s statistics like these that make the “No Tobacco Challenge” such an important initiative in Douglas, Sarpy and Cass Counties.
Over 1,000 fifth-grade students in 45 schools across these communities recently completed the “No Tobacco Challenge,” a creative way to engage students and have discussions about the dangers of tobacco and vaping, as well as the importance of making healthy life choices.
The program culminates with an art project in which each student portrays their commitment to a tobacco-free life. One student is chosen as a grand prize winner from a pool of finalists. This year’s winner is Tess Crenshaw, a student in Mrs. Stacey Shaw’s class at St. James/Seton Catholic School in Omaha.
For her outstanding artwork, Tess will be honored at the Champions for Tobacco-Free Living Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC) Annual Luncheon on Nov. 22 at noon at the Lo Sole Mio Villa banquet rooms at 3001 S. 32nd Ave. in Omaha.
Additionally, Tess’ class was awarded a $200 Barnes & Noble gift card, she received a $25 personal gift certificate and her class will have a pizza party on Nov. 25 at 2:30 p.m.
“These art projects show how committed students are to living healthy lives and rejecting tobacco and vaping,” said Deb Meyers, RN, BSN, OCN, program manager for the Methodist Lung/Thoracic Cancer Clinic. “We’re proud that the ‘No Tobacco Challenge’ can reach so many students and make an impact each year.”
The “No Tobacco Challenge” was implemented by Methodist Health System. MOTAC joined the effort in 2016, and Tobacco Education & Advocacy of the Midlands (T.E.A.M.) became a member of the partnership in 2017. Classroom instruction and activities are derived from a program sponsored by Scholastic.
More of the students’ approaches to the “No Tobacco Challenge” can be seen at www.motac.org/no-tobacco-challenge.