Virginia's Anti-Smoking Efforts Questioned

By: Danielle Banks
By: Danielle Banks

Local representatives say the money is being used for several programs. They just hope the state's poor grade doesn't reflect on their efforts because they believe they have made great strides in keeping local kids tobacco free.

Each year local kids design posters for the Great American Smokeout held in November. The project is put together by the Rockingham Community Services Board. It along with the Office on Children and Youth's "Tobacco Free Youth" program, and RMH's "Samantha Skunk" are just a few of the programs meant to keep kids from using tobacco.

Robin Breeden who pushes anti-smoking through the Rockingham Community Services Board says, "The community services board, the Office on Children and Youth, and RMH are all trying to work together to reduce the incidents of kids starting to smoke at an early age."

Despite the local efforts, a report released yesterday by the American Lung Association gave the state an "F" for it's low cigarette tax and laws to protect people from secondhand smoke. It also gave a "D" for measures taken to stop children from smoking and how Virginia is spending it's tobacco money.

The Office on Children and Youth says before it spends money, a lot has to be decided. "Tobacco Free Youth" coordinator Liz Thompson says, "It requires a lot of background info as to specifically how you're planning to spend the funds, how you're going to evaluate the program to make sure that it's actually doing what you intended it to do."

Data collected by the office in 2001 backs up the belief of all the groups that local programs are working. The survey showed 21 percent of area high schoolers smoked. That is less than the national average of 28 percent taken by the CDC.

Rhonda Rodamer who goes into schools as "Samantha Skunk" says, "I know that even if I’ve touched one person with the program that it has made a difference."


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