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Tobacco Prevention and Education in Children

The MSS selected tobacco as its National Service Project (NSP) for 2002-2004. Students from the AMA-MSS chapters at Texas A&M University and Pennsylvania State University jointly submitted a proposal on tobacco, and the MSS Assembly at the 2001 Interim Meeting selected it as the new NSP. The MSS campaign, "No Butts About It…Tobacco Stinks!" focuses on tobacco education and prevention in children and kicked off at the 2002 Annual Meeting in June.

The key points that led to the MSS’s selection of tobacco as the focus of our National Service Project include:

  • Tobacco usage is the premier modifiable lifestyle hazard in the U.S.
  • Tobacco affects all ages, races, and both sexes regardless of socioeconomic status
  • Tobacco is associated with a multitude of diseases including lung cancer and coronary artery disease
  • An appropriate 5 minute intervention has shown to be effective
  • This project is flexible enough for all medical students to participate in regardless of their year in school
  • This project has endless possibilities for outreach events and can be implemented at a variety of public and private venues
  • There are numerous existing organizations and programs dedicated to tobacco with which the MSS can join forces to combat this serious health issue

The MSS project "No Butts About It…Tobacco Stinks!" targets children under the age of 18 because statistics show that if you can keep a child from smoking by high school graduation, most will not begin smoking. The MSS has implemented their project through education and outreach events in local communities at various locations, including schools, hospitals, health fairs, clinics, and other public arenas. Medical students are uniquely positioned to reach out and educate children on this serious public health issue. Since medical students have a connection with children through a wide variety of health care and community environments, as well as being able to relate to the children on a peer level, they have the ability to impact these children. Students in the MSS can interject a strong component of enthusiasm, energy, idealism, and motivation to support already existing national, state, and local anti-smoking campaigns.

The goals of this project are to:

  • Educate children under the age of 18 about the health risks associated with tobacco use through community service projects
  • Increase the number of children under 18 receiving tobacco prevention education
  • Work closely with existing anti-smoking groups to collaborate on outreach and education events
  • Pursue legislative activities to push for more effective anti-tobacco legislation

This project is tailored to the needs of busy medical students with a wide range of commitment levels. There are numerous project ideas that students can implement at their schools and make a difference. Here are different ways you can get involved:

  • Join existing community-based coalitions and serve as volunteers for their outreach events
  • Participate in existing national initiatives, such as Kick Butts Day on April 2nd
  • Educate children in pediatric wards throughout the country about the harmful effects of tobacco and teach them to say no
  • Set up information tables at your academic medical hospitals and free clinics
  • Integrate tobacco education into your community service efforts at elementary and secondary schools throughout America, such as vaccination programs, mentoring programs, and health education programs
  • Speak to children and their families at public facilities like museums, retail malls, zoos, youth centers, churches, health fairs, etc.
  • Initiate letter-writing campaigns at your chapter to state and federal legislatures to pass stronger tobacco laws or send letters to editors of local and national publications to voice your opinion (see sample letter [Word, 19KB] to the editor of USA Today from the Immediate Past Chair of the MSS)

To help you get started with your tobacco project, the AMA Department of Medical Student Services (DMSS) has created the Tobacco Program Module. This module is filled with statistics, resources, project ideas, and contact information to get your project off the ground. The DMSS is interested in hearing about your successes with tobacco. Please e-mail keith.voogd@ama-assn.org with the projects you have organized...and they will be added to this program module. Good luck!