Nearly 24 percent of Louisiana high school students smoke, according to a youth tobacco use survey conducted by the state Health and Hospitals Department in 2011. Smoking among that group increased from 19 percent in 2009, according to the survey.
“I don’t think they have the awareness about the effects,” Urina Holt said. “We’re trying to get the kids to understand the other effects, heart disease and emphysema. It’s not just cancer. If we can get teenagers on board at an early age, I believe we can wipe out (smoking) in a generation.”
Holt is regional coordinator for Communities of Color Network, a tobacco-free initiative promoted by Southern University Agricultural Extension and Research Center. The Southern University System barred tobacco products from all system property, including dorms, sports fields and parking lots, in January.
Trey Rush is working to bring the same policy to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. Rush is vice president of the Northwestern chapter of Fresh Campus, a student group that works to end smoking on campus. Rush, a freshman, said the group focuses on the dangers of second-hand smoke through posters and events.
“We’ve established a 25-foot nonsmoking perimeter around buildings, but that’s not really enforced,” he said. “Now our objective is to make Northwestern a smoke-free campus.”
High school students like D’Shanti Lockett-Bradley, who goes to Byrd in Shreveport, also are talking up freedom from tobacco. She supports her mom, who quit smoking two months ago, and her grandfather, who gave up cigarettes five years ago.
“My great-grandfather died from lung cancer and an aunt died of throat cancer,” Lockett-Bradley said. “I would tell other people I want them to live a full life, not lose it to something like tobacco.”
Zamora Bowen, of Caddo Magnet High School, is working with a school counselor to form an action group on campus.
“The group will do activities to show it’s not OK to smoke,” Bowen said.