Leaders from Tobacco Free Missouri Youth (TFMY) convened at the YMCA of the Ozarks for the second “Lead On” youth summit sponsored by the Department of Health and Senior Services, Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program and University of Missouri Tobacco Control Research Center held June 24-26.
Sixteen youth from around the state, including Katelynn Bennett and Hailey Glore from Bonne Terre, as well as young people from Arbyrd, Ballwin, Bethany, Dexter, Gravois Mills, Jackson, Jefferson City, Perryville, Sikeston, and Smithville.
At the meeting youth leaders engaged in learning and sharing of experiences designed to empower them to take action to reduce the harm caused by tobacco use in Missouri. They learned about the science and best practices of implementing policies that promote smoke-free environments. The event came at a critical time as currently local comprehensive smoke-free laws only cover 31 percent of the state population.
The youth engaged in team building exercises in experiential learning sessions and activities with the central theme of addressing secondhand smoking exposure. Additionally, teams learned how to convey scientific facts and health messages on the dangers of passive smoking to others with respect and humility. Embedded in these messages were bereavement stories of how smoking and secondhand smoking has stolen the health and lives of their loved ones.
The youth had an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills they learned from the sessions. Facilitators of the Lead On summit were tobacco control experts from several state- and national-level organizations including the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the University of Missouri, Truth Initiative, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Tobacco21.org.
The Youth Council took an active role in mapping future events essential to “protect the right to breathe clean air at workplaces” including in their schools, college campuses, communities, and government buildings. These youth leaders made a commitment to educate their peers, solicit partnerships with health and youth-focused organizations, and actively seek support of decision-makers at all levels.
TFMY will have a booth at track and field events at the upcoming Missouri Show-Me State Games in Columbia from July 29-31 to promote their tobacco-free healthy lifestyle priorities for Missouri.