Peninsula Smoke Free coordinator Jennifer Olendorff holds a model cigarette with figures of the poisons included in every puff.
T.A.T.U. doesn’t mean tattoo at Peninsula Smokefree Partnership, it means Teens Against Tobacco Use whether it’s tattooed on your midriff or silk screened on a sweat shirt. “It’s a tat parents are proud to have their kids wearing,” says Peninsula Smokefree project coordinator Jennifer Olendorff, “We have a lot going on, last year we developed our first teen group of area high-schoolers that are going into our middle school health classes and giving tobacco education presentations, we have also sponsored an Iditarod musher this year Bruce Linton of Kasilof who will be making the trek tobacco free as well as going into our elementary schools with tobacco facts and daily race updates, and then April 5th we will be at the community health fair at SoHi and in mid May at Soldotna Safety Days and we are also an official sponsor of a Relay for Life team that will be walking 24 hours May 30th and 31st.”.
According to Olendorff the local group has picked up a lot of support since it was founded several years ago and that the volunteer effort is starting to pay off, “We have found that youth smoker rates have dropped significantly since 1995 and 2004, but the problem area group today is the 18-24 year-olds or the college age group which seems to be a successful target of the tobacco industry and is the only group where we haven’t been able to measure a decrease in smoking rates,” said Olendorff. While quitting is difficult and nicotine said to be even more addictive than cocaine or heroine Olendorff says there is more help to quit than ever before, “There are so many tools out there now for smokers that are really effective for quitting like nicotine replacement therapy and prescription drugs and a great deal of online support such as the tobacco quit line which is free counseling service and offers free nicotine replacement therapy for all Alaskan residents.”
During the Great American Smoke Out in November Peninsula Smokefree works hard to get friends of smokers to provide their friend with Kick-the-Habit kits, “We also make these kits available throughout the year for anyone who wants to help a loved one break their smoking habit. The kit has a lot of information along with a stress ball and other tools to help a person quit and then we encourage adding special gifts for your friend like a massage or gift certificate that will help them know you love them and want them to live longer,” said RN Pam Howard, Youth Coordinator for Peninsula Smokefree. For more information about the work of Peninsula Smokefree and helpful links go to www.peninsulasmokefree.com or call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 888-842-QUIT (7848). Peninsula Smokefree has offices with Hospice and Bridges in Soldotna on the Sterling Highway stop by or call them at 260-3682.
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