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State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf visited with Melinda Nelson and Marissa Monett, EHS students, about tobacco prevention funding. Submitted photo

Tobacco prevention funding supported

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Ellsworth High School Senior Melinda Nelson and Freshman Marissa Monett spoke with State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) Jan. 20 in River Falls about the importance of continued tobacco prevention funding from the state.

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Programs like the Quit Line, other cessation resources and education efforts, in addition to student-led prevention efforts like FACT (Fighting Against Corporate Tobacco) and TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use), may be affected by funding cuts. Currently, a good portion of Ellsworth school programming is funded from lawsuit proceeds against big tobacco companies, which includes a clause to fund education and prevention efforts for youth. When these funds are used up, state funding will be very important.

Ellsworth student-led prevention education is important because younger students look to older students as role models--it works; the rates of use have decreased among Ellsworth youth.

"They remember us from one year to the next and they remember what we're teaching," said Monett about TATU education.

Nelson added, "In sixth grade, I remember going to the FACT lock-in (now called FACT FEST). That one night taught me so much about big tobacco, its lies and now I've been a part of FACT for four years. I wouldn't want to see the (rate of use) increase--we'd be going backward."

Nelson's grandmother died when Nelson was just three-years-old, from health issues caused by second-hand smoke. She is very passionate about educating the public as well about the danger of second-hand smoke.

Tobacco use in adolescence is associated with many other health risk behaviors, including higher risk sexual behavior and use of alcohol or other drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov).

The term "gateway" is commonly used for tobacco use leading to other high risk behaviors. Ellsworth FACT and TATU students want to remind the public they are not against tobacco users, their mission is to do the best they can to educate youth to be tobacco free. FACT students are also actively supporting policy ensuring clean-indoor air for everyone. See

www.fightwithfact.com.

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