PUBLISHED: 1:15 PM on Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Students educate peers about substance abuse
Teens Against Tobacco Use

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Student members of Teens Against Tobacco Use at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School help fellow students "fish for facts" about substance abuse Friday, Oct. 27 as part of Red Ribbon Week.
The power of peers is at work throughout Juneau as teenagers take a part in Teens Against Tobacco Use and help to educate fellow students about tobacco use and other substances.

Students at Juneau-Douglas High School made presentations to more than 300 elementary school students in October as part of the program. Kelley Roper, a VISTA volunteer, has been working with student on the high school level to bring these programs to elementary students.

Students at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School meet each week to make posters and plan programs to education peers about the consequences of using tobacco.

"I think doing drugs is stupid, and I want to try to help people not do them so much," said sixth-grader Alecia Nichols Arriga. "It's pretty fun, and we do activities so kids understand why not to do drugs and stuff. It's important because drugs kill you, and I don't want anybody to die."

Ruth Simpson, student assistant counselor, said about 80 students at DZMS have voiced interested in the program since the beginning of October, and about 30 students are TATU regulars.

"They've been very enthusiastic and very responsive," Simpson said. "Every day a kids asks me how to join."

While the program touches on substance abuse, tobacco is the focus of the teachings.

"I don't like smoking, and it's not good for you," said seventh-grader Asia Griffin. "We tell other students about it so they don't smoke and don't get lung cancer."

Simpson said with the increase in anti-tobacco advertising and other programs, people are getting the message of the dangers of smoking.

"I think we have an opportunity at this time as the climate of the environment is shifting," Simpson said. "If we can make a conscience effort with these students at this time, and they're given enough support they won't even start."

The main goal of TATU is decrease youth initiation into tobacco use, inform the public about hazards of second-hand smoke and support policy changes. NCASS and TATU support a completely smoke-free school environment and activities policy.

Along with Red Ribbon Week, students at the middle school are planning a late November trash bag fashion show and participating in pool parties for "good, clean fun." Currently students are gearing up for the Nov. 16 Great American Smoke Out.