Chair Kafoury meets with students who are pushing young people away from tobacco, e-cigarettes

November 21, 2014

From left: Majma Ahmed; Natalie Cante-Barrios; Winnie Lvo; Zelin Wu; Chair Kafoury; Sidney Ramirez; Vy Tran; and Ally Angeldekao

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury visited Madison High School this week to meet with students who are part of an anti-smoking program designed to convince youth to stay away from tobacco and nicotine.

The Madison students participate in Providence Health Services’ “Rebels for a Cause” program. They gathered Wednesday, Nov. 19, to show Chair Kafoury the efforts they are making in educating students about the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes.

“I was impressed by the work of the Madison Rebels,” Chair Kafoury said. “These young women are standing up for what they believe in, and they’re doing it with creativity and enthusiasm.”

The students set up stations in the school’s library to commemorate the Nov. 20 American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout. The Cancer Society has held the event for 37 years as a way to encourage smokers to stop for one day and make a plan to quit.

The “Rebels for a Cause” program at Madison involves juniors and seniors who take classes in the health occupation curriculum. Students study the effects of tobacco and help communicate a message to other students about the dangers of smoking and other tobacco-related products.

Madison Rebel Sidney Ramirez
Madison Rebel Sidney Ramirez

Tobacco use is the single largest cause of preventable death and disease, according to health officials. It kills 7,000 Oregonians each year and costs $2.5 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity due to premature death.

Nearly 18 percent of adult Oregonians were smokers last year. And many of them started using tobacco before they turned 18. In Multnomah County, roughly 8 percent of 11th graders smoke and 3.6 percent of eighth-graders do, too.

“It’s a pediatric epidemic,” says Julanne Sandoz, director of school outreach for Providence Health Services.

E-cigarettes are rapidly growing in popularity with young people. Tobacco companies have created hundreds of products that look like candy and are targeting youth. In an effort to educate students, the Madison Rebels took aim at the industry by making a game where a participant is timed to see how long it takes to distinguish real candy wrappers from candy-flavored tobacco products.

“I was so impressed by their creativity,” Chair Kafoury said. “This will definitely help spread the word among our young people about the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes.”