Students Show Commitment to Healthy Living Through 'No Tobacco Challenge' Artwork ContestPublished: Nov. 13, 2020
About 1,600 youths smoke their first cigarette and nearly 200 youths start smoking regularly each day in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2019, over 12% of middle school students and over 31% of high school students reported currently using a tobacco product.
While cigarette smoking is becoming less frequent among middle- and high-schoolers, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among youths since 2014. In 2020, about one in 20 middle school students and one in five high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.
It’s statistics like these that make the “No Tobacco Challenge” such an important initiative in Douglas, Sarpy and Cass Counties.
The “No Tobacco Challenge” is 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. Fifth-grade students in seven schools across these counties recently completed this year’s challenge, which was entirely virtual to accommodate changing classroom needs.
The program culminates with an art project in which each student portrays what a tobacco-free life looks like to them. One student is chosen as a grand prize winner from a pool of finalists. This year’s winner is Declan Kirkpatrick, a student in Shelley Brown’s class at St. James/Seton Catholic School.
For his outstanding artwork, Declan will receive a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, and his artwork will be displayed on a billboard in the Omaha area. His teacher will receive a $200 Barnes & Noble gift card for classroom supplies, and his entire class will receive goodie bags.
Five runners-up in the art contest each will receive a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, and each of their teachers will receive a $100 Barnes & Noble gift card for supplies.
“It’s so gratifying to view the art these students create and see how the ‘No Tobacco Challenge’ is making a difference in their lives,” said Deb Meyers, BSN, RN, OCN, program manager for the Methodist Lung/Thoracic Cancer Clinic. “By reaching students early to discuss the dangers of tobacco, we’re setting them up for healthier lives – and the message can spread to their families and friends.”
The “No Tobacco Challenge” was implemented by Methodist Health System and is fully funded by Methodist Hospital Foundation. The Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC) and Tobacco Education & Advocacy of the Midlands (T.E.A.M.) have since joined the partnership to expand the reach of the tobacco-free message. Class instruction and activities are derived from a program sponsored by Scholastic.