Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
November 15, 2000
DHSS - Rita Manno
Fleishman Hillard - Janet Johnson
TRENTON - Third- and fourth-graders across New Jersey are learning about the dangers of smoking and then sharing their knowledge with a smoker as part of the "Tell Someone You Love" letter-writing program sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and Scholastic, Inc.
The state's 12,000 third- and fourth-grade teachers have been invited to participate in this innovative educational activity, which was launched to coincide with the Great American Smokeout on November 16, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant said today.
Teachers have received program guides from Scholastic designed to help them conduct a classroom session on smoking and addiction. Following the session and interactive discussion, teachers ask students to write a letter expressing in their own words why someone they love should quit smoking. Children may write to a close family member, relative, friend, or entertainer or sports personality who smokes.
"Children have an opportunity both to learn about the hazards of tobacco and to take action in a way that's important to them," said Governor Christie Whitman. "Through `Tell Someone You Love,' young people can see how smoking affects their lives and the health of the people they love.1"
"Young people are an important part of our efforts to reduce tobacco use statewide," Commissioner Grant said. "This is one more opportunity for young people to get involved -- this time in a nationwide event to reduce the health impact of tobacco on our society."
The department's other youth-oriented initiatives include an anti-tobacco media campaign, and a statewide youth summit November 18 and 19 where participants will launch a year-round youth movement against tobacco. These initiatives are part of the department's $30 million Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program, which is funded through the Master Settlement Agreement with the states and the tobacco industry.
The "Tell Someone You Love" program emphasizes the dangers of tobacco addiction, including the serious health risks posed by secondhand smoke to infants and children. Second hand smoke has been linked to: an increased risk of low birth weight, which is a risk factor for infant death before age one; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; asthma, ear infections and severe lower respiratory infections; and fire-related injuries.
In their letter, children will tell a loved in their own words why it's important to quit. Parents and others who quit reduce their risk of getting tobacco-related cancer. They also create a smoke-free home that helps children stay healthy. Quitting also sets an important example and reduces the likelihood that the child will become a smoker.
Parents and other loved ones are encouraged to talk to children about the letter, the problem of tobacco addiction and any steps the adult plans to take. In addition to the letter, smokers will receive information on quit-smoking resources, including New Jersey Quitnet SM and New Jersey Quitline, two new free interactive counseling services.
All children who participate in Tell Someone You Love will get a Certificate of Recognition from the Commissioner.
Quitnet (www.nj.quitnet.com) is an innovative online smoking cessation program that provides peer support groups and access to trained counselors. Registered New Jersey users can plan a personal quitting strategy on line, and get referrals to local programs and information about medications to help end their addiction. They can also participate in online peer support forums and receive e-mailed messages of support.
Those who prefer to speak to a counselor can call New Jersey Quitline at 1-866 NJ STOPS (1-866-657-8677) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Trained counselors are available in 26 languages to work with callers to develop comprehensive treatment plans that meet the individual's needs. Following an initial interview, treatment can begin immediately and may extend up to six months.
Quitnet and Quitline are the first treatment initiatives New Jersey is undertaking with money from the Master Settlement Agreement. Over the next year, the department also plans to institute a statewide network of health care clinics to offer additional resources for people who want to stop smoking.
Note: Four schools in Paramus, Montclair, West New York and Princeton Junction have agreed to have media present for the "Tell Someone" program on November 16. Please contact Janet Johnson at Fleishman Hillard to make arrangements.