ST. PAUL, Minn., Aug. 16 More than 100Minnesota teens are having their cake and eating it, too, this week. Membersof Catalyst -- a new group of teens dedicated to adding youth voices to publichealth debates around tobacco issues -- wrap up a three-day youth leadershipsummit at the University of Minnesota, Friday, August 17 with a march andrally at the Capitol. After intensive training and team building, they willmarch to the Capitol to thank lawmakers for bringing an end to secondhandsmoke in the workplace.
Beginning October 1, Minnesota's bars, restaurants and a host of otherworkplaces that have previously been exempt from the state's Clean Indoor AirAct, will become smoke-free; teens are excited for the future.
"This past year every dollar I earned came as a mixed blessing," saysNikki Bunnell. "My waitressing job puts me in direct contact with secondhandsmoke during my weekend shifts. Even though I don't have the right to vote,I wanted our Minnesota's representatives and senators to know how thankful Iam for giving me a healthier future."
Like thousands of adults in the Minnesota workplace, the burgeoning youthof Minnesota have been forced to balance the need for a job with the increasedhealth risks associated with working in an environment filled with the dangersfrom secondhand smoke. According to data provided by the Center for DiseaseControl, nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or workincrease their heart disease risk by 25-30 percent and their lung cancer riskby 20-30 percent(1).
Teen leaders from across Minnesota presented state legislators with agiant cake to show their gratitude. "At Catalyst we are about empoweringyouth to make a difference in the fight against big tobacco," says AndyBerndt, Project Director of Catalyst. "Our youth wanted a way to show theirthanks and support for the courage and hard work that went into passing theFreedom To Breathe Act. More importantly the teens want to show their passionfor the work that lies ahead."
Catalyst is a statewide youth mobilization program, which is supported byBlue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota as part of Prevention Minnesota, BlueCross' long-term health improvement initiative funded by tobacco settlementdollars to tackle the root causes of preventable heart disease and cancer.Catalyst is open to all high school students across the state and will focuson helping youth develop leadership, advocacy and communications skills tocreate change at the community level and beyond.
The celebratory march begins in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul at 11 a.m.and ends at the Capitol. Speakers at the rally include legislative authors ofthe bill: Senator Kathy Sheran, Representative Thomas Huntley andRepresentative Dan Severson.
For more information about Catalyst or the Catalyst summit, please contactAndy Berndt at 651-270-6589 or [email protected]
or visit our website athttp://www.bethecatalyst.org.
(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequencesof Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General.Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers forDisease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion,National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office onSmoking and Health, 2006 [cited 2006 Sep 27]. Available from:http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/report/.