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Harford fifth-graders pledge never to try smoking

Tobacco Products

Thousands of fifth-graders around Harford County have pledged never to try tobacco by signing their names on banners that will be exhibited on National Kick Butts Day March 20.

Harford County Health Department's Cigarette Restitution Fund Tobacco Program School Health Specialist, Dottie Ruff, teaches students of all ages, throughout the county about the dangers of tobacco, while empowering them to make healthy decisions to refrain from using tobacco in any form.

Other youth will pledge to abstain from tobacco use during the celebration at the health department headquarters, 1321 Woodbridge Station Way in Edgewood. During an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., several speakers will address students and adults beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Each year, National Kick Butts Day is recognized as a national day for involving and encouraging youth to seize control against tobacco. As Harford County Health Department's Cigarette Restitution Fund Tobacco Program School Health Specialist, it is my job to teach students of all ages throughout our County about the dangers of tobacco, while empowering them to make healthy decisions to refrain from using tobacco in any form.

Harford County has one of the highest rates of adult cigarette use in Maryland, higher rates of use by youth of "any tobacco product" (17.3 percent) and for "initiation of tobacco use" (19.2 percent) than Maryland averages for both categories, at 17.1 percent and 18.1 percent, respectively.

Cigarette use by Harford County high school students (17.2 percent), particularly among 10th through 12th graders, is considerably higher than the state average for that same age group (14.1 percent) and has been trending higher in recent years as funding for anti-tobacco advertising campaigns has diminished.

"We don't want our children to become a part of tobacco addiction, morbidity and mortality statistics. Along with our (cessation) efforts directed at helping tobacco users 'quit,' we believe that the very best means of preventing future tobacco-related deaths is to take tobacco awareness directly to the next generation of potential tobacco users," Ruff said in a press release.

For more information about Harford County Health Department's Tobacco Program, call 410-612-1781 or visit http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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