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Area high school students take part in recent ‘Kick Butts’ anti-tobacco lobbying day in Boston

Members of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School's 84 Chapter were among the area high school students who participated in last month's statewide  "Kick Butts" lobbying day in Boston.
SUBMITTED PHOTO

Members of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School's 84 Chapter were among the area high school students who participated in last month's statewide "Kick Butts" lobbying day in Boston. SUBMITTED PHOTO Purchase photo reprints »

For members of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s smoking prevention club, a recent lobbying day in Boston was “an eye-opening experience,” according to Tricia Dandrea, the school’s health teacher.

“We did a little training on what you want to say to your legislators,” said Dandrea, an advisor to the school’s The 84 club, which gets its name from the 84 percent of Massachusetts teens who do not smoke. “Meeting with them was very exciting for the kids.”

The Smith Voke students were among scores of high school students statewide who marched across Boston Commons on March 20 for the state Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program’s annual “Kick Butts Day.” The focus of this year’s event was on tobacco products other than cigarettes, such as snuff and chewing tobacco, that are targeted to youth consumers.

“These products are attractive, cheap and easy to get and the tobacco companies are spending money to target teens,” Dandrea said. “You’d think it was candy from the shiny packaging.”

She added that Smith Voke’s club plans to survey local adults and teens about their access to and perceptions about such products. The school was one of two area high school The 84 clubs recently awarded a state grant of $4,500 to share for tobacco prevention education activities. The other was Easthampton High School.

Michele Komosa, director of the Hampshire Council of Government’s Tobacco Free Community Partnership, said the lobby day was “a valuable opportunity for the youth to meet one on one with their legislators and share their message.” Students also voiced support for the proposed $1 tobacco tax increase which is part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget, Komosa said.

Other area schools with The 84 chapters are Belchertown, Northampton and South Hadley high schools. Details about the initiative are available online at www.The84.org.

— BARBARA SOLOW

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