Hagerstown-based youth club learns about tobacco's effects on minority groups

June 12, 2008|By JOSH SHAW

The No Smoking Youth Club today will conclude a three-day program designed to educate youths on how tobacco use affects different minority groups.

Wednesday was Hispanic-Latino day, and today the group will learn the about the culture and smoking statistics of American Indians. The three-day program, held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, began Tuesday with Chinese Day.

"We try to maintain the objectives of the group to expand beyond just one race or group of children," club adviser Andy Smith said. "When the program was first started, it was just in the local neighborhood, but it has evolved into different chapters to include all minority groups."

Sila Alegret-Bartel, who helped start a chapter of the club for Latino students in Hagerstown, spoke at Wednesday's event.

She told the youngsters in attendance, who belong to another chapter of the club, about her new chapter and said she hopes to get both groups to share experiences.


"The club is really starting to catch on, and I hope to help them learn how smoking affects different groups," Alegret-Bartel said.

Smith shared statistics on how smoking affects the Hispanic population and served refreshments representing the Hispanic culture, including nachos and taco pie. On Tuesday, the club celebrated Chinese Day and learned not only about Chinese culture, but how smoking affects the Asian population.

Smith said he is glad to see the club, which is sponsored by Brothers United Who Dare to Care and funded by the Washington County Health Department, expanding to other areas.

"It is all about awareness and teaching young people to avoid using tobacco and to stay clear of second-hand smoke," he said. "I'm happy to see the kids' commitment to the club."

Aneka Moore, 10, has been a member of the club for more than two years and said she liked the different events planned this year.

"I like learning about the different cultures and learning about how bad smoking is for everyone," she said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Hispanics. An estimated 24.8 percent of Hispanic males in grades nine through 12 are smokers, compared with 14 percent of African-American males and 24.9 percent of white males of the same age.

The club will participate in its last event of the year, a Tobacco-Free Youth Camp, on June 20 at Wheaton Park in Hagerstown.

Smith is working with his wife to publish a book about the negative effects of smoking, and they hope to market it to the local public schools and other community groups.

"The key is education and the different programs the club has all help us meet the goal of teaching young people about the dangers of tobacco," Smith said.

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