Minneapolis organizations working to prevent youth smoking

As part of World No Tobacco Day, the City has awarded funds to four organizations to prevent kids from developing a lifelong addiction to tobacco by increasing awareness about emerging commercial tobacco products and strategies to prevent youth from accessing them.

The organizations—Ka Joog, We Win Institute, Indigenous Peoples Task Force and Southside Urban Community Coalition—will engage youth, parents and community stakeholders through presentations, summer events and social media. They also plan to visit tobacco retail outlets (corner stores, gas stations, etc.) to encourage owners to protect kids by understanding and following tobacco sales laws.

The project is part of the Minneapolis Department of Health Healthy Living Initiative, which works with community partners to create opportunities for everyone to eat healthy, be physically active and live tobacco-free.  While cigarette smoking has declined in the last decade, efforts to prevent youth smoking are being undermined by cheap, sweet cigars, which are sold individually or in small packages, costing as little as $.33 each.  Flavored shisha (smoked in hookah pipes) is also gaining popularity, particularly among East African youth.

Mohamed Farah, executive director from Ka Joog, an organization serving Somali youth, says, “Kids don’t understand that hookah is unhealthy. They think they’re smoking fruit. We want young people and their parents to understand that it’s as addictive and harmful as cigarettes.”

Indigenous Peoples Task Force discourages commercial tobacco use by teaching young people about theceremonial use of tobacco in American Indian culture. We Win Institute intends to engage young people and parents through its summer programming, while Southside Urban Community Coalition will engage youth and members of its 12-member coalition, including leaders in the African American and Latino communities. “The tobacco industry is deliberately flooding the market with tobacco products that are packaged, flavored and priced to lure in the next generation of smokers. We need to raise awareness and protect our youth,” said Deborah Cavitt, project director for the Southside Urban Community Coalition.

Together, these organizations will address tobacco use in communities with the highest rates of tobacco use and related diseases. The World Health Organization recognizes each May 31st as World No Tobacco Day to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

The Minneapolis Health Department’s tobacco-free living activities are funded by a Community Transformation Grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Hennepin County.

Published May 30, 2014