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Blue Cross Campaign To Help Teens Live Tobacco Free

Armen Hareyan's picture

An anti-smoking campaign aimed at 16,000 Michigan high school students, enabling them to participate in awareness programs and engage in peer advocacy, has been funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan through the 2007-08 school year. The start of the campaign is timely as the nation focuses on smoking cessation during the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15.

"Encouraging teens to live tobacco-free is part of our comprehensive program to improve the health of all Michigan residents," said Lynda Rossi, Blues vice president of public policy and social mission. "We want to do all we can to prevent youngsters from facing serious health conditions later on in life. Blues efforts to improve the health of young people range from tackling teen tobacco use to our commitment to the state's MIChild program, which provides health and dental coverage to eligible children."

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High school students are a key group in which to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco use, smoking and secondhand smoke. According to the 2004 Michigan Youth Tobacco Survey, 80 kids try their first cigarette in Michigan every day and another 50 become daily smokers. It also shows that 17 percent of high school students are smokers.

High schools participating in the Blues program have chosen from a variety of activities to promote smoke-free environments. Some students are creating coupon books giving discounts at smoke-free restaurants or presenting plaques honoring those restaurants. Others are conducting surveys of smoke-free apartment buildings and hope to encourage apartment owners to launch smoke- free policies. Still others are producing reports to businesses on the economics of going smoke-free.

The high school campaign is just one part of the Blues' comprehensive tobacco prevention efforts. BCBSM has partnered with the American Lung Association of Michigan and Tobacco Free Michigan (tobaccofreemichigan.org), a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting tobacco-free environments and improving the health and quality of life for Michigan residents through education and advocacy.

The Blues also are among a growing list of companies across Michigan and the nation that have broadened their policies from prohibiting smoking in their buildings to establishing smoke-free campuses. The Blues prohibit smoking and the use of tobacco products by employees and visitors on all company property, including its outdoor campuses, whether owned or leased. The aim is to improve the health and well-being of all individuals at Blues facilities. With such efforts, it joins with other companies in the Campaign for Smokefree Air (makemiairsmokefree.org), a Michigan coalition.