Teen smoking often leads to use of other, illegal drugs

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To the Editor;

As a counselor at Craig Middle School, I am very concerned about the fact that, in our community, children under the age of 18 are legally able to possess and use cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. Since I started working at Craig Middle School eleven years ago, I have watched kids standing across the street from the school smoking cigarettes. As long as they aren't on school property, there is nothing the school is able to do to stop them. I've talked to seventh and eighth graders who are already addicted to tobacco. Many have told me that they started smoking when they were in elementary school. Some have told me "there can't be much wrong with smoking it's not even illegal."

As a school counselor, my job is to be an advocate for children. I want what's best for kids I want them all to grow up to be healthy and successful. But, every day I see "little" kids making " big" decisions decisions that can affect the rest of their lives.

I've read all the statistics about kids and tobacco. The one that scares me the most is this one: "Cigarette smokers are 100 times more likely to smoke marijuana, and are more likely to use other illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin in the future."

In my job, I see too many kids trying to cope with life in negative kinds of ways. Will passing a law against kids smoking solve all of our youth problems? No! Will it show kids that we, as a community, care about them and their health and their futures? Yes!

What kids really need are adults who care. Many of our youth today are confronted with pressures and decisions some of us can't even imagine and they need and deserve as much help and support as we can give them. It's important for us to always keep in mind that our "youth problem" is not just a youth problem. It is an adult problem our children do what they see us, as adults, doing everyday in our lives. Our children are just a reflection of the society around them.

We, as a society, need to change. We need to clean up our own acts and then do everything in our power to help keep our youth from making decisions that can lead to so many negative consequences. The Moffat County School District is doing what it can to educate children, at all ages, about the effects of tobacco on their bodies, the dangers of using tobacco, and ways to refuse tobacco and other drugs. However, students are getting a different "education" from our community and from the media.

When we look only at the problems of youth, it can be frustrating and depressing. But there is a positive, hopeful, and very effective way to address youth issues.

The Search Institute, who surveyed our CMS students two years ago, has discovered some powerful ways of helping kids. Using research based on thousands of youth, from hundreds of communities across the country, the Search Institute found that the difference between troubled teens and those leading productive, healthy, positive lifestyles was strongly affected by the presence of what are called "developmental assets." Kids who succeed have more of these positive assets in their lives things like family support, self esteem, boundaries, caring schools and communities, and hope for the future.

Research has proven that the more assets young people have, the less likely they are to use alcohol and other drugs, have sex too soon, exhibit violent behavior, and engage in other types of negative behavior. I think this is what we all want for our youth more positive behaviors and less negative ones. Unfortunately, our youth in Craig, like those all across the nation, are sadly lacking in developmental assets. Fortunately, there are many specific, practical things everyone in our community can do to make a positive difference in young people's lives.

What we as adults do, can make a really big difference in the lives of kids. To build a healthier community for kids and ultimately for all of us, we need to build more assets in our youth. Most asset-building activities are very easy like having dinner with your kids as often as possible, or just saying "hi" to kids when you see them.

If you'd like to find out more about building assets in youth, please call me at 824-3289 or Pres Askew (Chairman of Moffat County Youth First) at 826-0412 or Grand Futures at 824-5752.

Another way to help our youth would be to contact our City Council members about the proposed youth tobacco ordinance and also attend the next City Council meeting tonight. Passing such an ordinance will not solve all of our youth problems but it might be a first step. It is one way to show our youth that we, as a community, care about them and their health and their futures that we're willing to do what we can we're willing to put boundaries out there to try to keep them safe from harm and danger. Every child in Craig has the potential for becoming a statistic.

Let us remember that in our country we have been given a lot and that "to whom much is given, much is expected". The youth of Craig deserve our best efforts.

Sincerely,

Kathy Bockelman

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