Claremore Daily Progress

Community News

November 30, 2011

Tobacco prevention program reaches 5,000th student

DEWEY — The Cherokee Nation set a milestone by reaching the 5,000th area student to take part in the tribe’s school-based tobacco prevention program. It happened during a tobacco prevention presentation held recently at Dewey Middle School.

The ambitious goal was set by Greg Bilby, program coordinator with the tribe’s Cancer Program, who helped start the program four years ago. The tobacco prevention campaign, which has been presented to schools throughout the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction, was started in an effort to prevent cancer caused by tobacco use.

“I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams having this go on for four years and reaching 5,000 kids. It has been awesome and we enjoy encouraging kids not to use tobacco,” Bilby said.

The presentation demonstrates how cancer caused by tobacco use can change someone’s life and features an interactive journey that highlights key messages in traditional Cherokee stories told by Robert Lewis. Presenters with the tribe’s Leadership Group also join in to show students what is possible if they don’t use tobacco.

Brian Jackson, who holds more than eight world records and is aptly nicknamed the “I Believe Guy,” demonstrates his super-human lung capacity by blowing up and popping a hot water bottle in record time. Baron O’Field, the newest member of the team, tells students about his three-time journey on the Remember the Removal Bike Ride, in which riders put their endurance and strength to the test as they retrace the 900 mile journey known as the Trail of Tears.

Bilby ends the presentation by showing slides of what cancer can do to your body while repeating to students, “This is what the tobacco companies don’t tell you.”

Bilby said that if he only prevents one kid from smoking the experience was worth it.

“It’s been a fun experience and hopefully we can reach 1,000 more kids and get the message to them to stop using commercial tobacco,” Bilby said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for more than 440,000 deaths each year and nearly 6,000 in Oklahoma alone. Tobacco use can lead to nicotine dependence and serious health problems.

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