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Partnership awarded $87K grant for tobacco prevention

MADISON COUNTY – Alabama Department of Public Health has awarded the Partnership for a Drug-Free Community with an $87,000 grant earmarked for prevention programs for youth tobacco in Huntsville, Madison and Madison County.

The prevention impetus will focus on E-cigarettes, vaping and electronic nicotine delivery systems, like JUULs, that are surging in popularity with youth. (‘JUUL’ abbreviates JUice USB Lighting.)

Partnership for a Drug-Free Community has operated for about 30 years as the drug prevention agency for Huntsville, Madison, Madison County and into North Alabama.

In addition, Huntsville Hospital has proposed an ordinance change. “We applaud and fully support Huntsville Hospital’s efforts to strengthen our local tobacco ordinance based on the known side effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke,” Partnership Executive Director Candice Dunaway said.

The grant program includes a curriculum that Stanford Medical School developed. Youth in grades 6-12 are eligible for classes.

A survey by the University of Michigan reported that teen use of e-cigarettes soared in 2018. The national survey of eighth-graders, sophomores and seniors found the rise in nicotine vaping was the largest spike for any substance recorded by the study in 44 years.

In addition, the survey discovered that many students believe they are vaping “just flavoring,” Partnership spokesperson Wendy Reeves said. “In fact, just about all brands include nicotine, and JUUL has particularly high levels of it.” 

Currently, approximately 3.6 million middle- and high-school students are now vaping regularly, according to a recent CDC study.

Partnership is assembling a youth advocacy team and is accepting applications for the Youth Tobacco Initiative. The group’s first meeting is planned for Jan. 19 at the Partnership office at 2201 Clinton Ave. Huntsville 35801.

“Partnership is in the process of contacting local school systems to get applications and information about the program to school counselors. Any interested student can download an application at partnershipforadrug-freecommunity.org/yti,” Reeves said.

Annmarie Martin is serving as project coordinator for the tobacco prevention and control grant. Previously, Martin has worked as Communications Director for Huntsville-Madison County Public Library and as writer/editor with “The Huntsville Times.”

Throughout her career, Martin has worked and volunteered with youth. “Smoking and tobacco use has been on the back burner for a few years. After the new nicotine devices emerged, “We’re seeing deceptive marketing techniques similar to those once used by cigarette makers,” Martin said.

“Youth are being lured into thinking these new trendy devices are safe. Our goal is to educate students about the health risks of using devices like JUULs,” Martin said.

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