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PERRY COUNTY - Three local high-school seniors shared similar stories last week of their decisions not to use tobacco - and their efforts at encouraging younger students who look up to them as student athletes to make similar healthy decisions.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association and Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation recognize student athletes each year who already serve as positive role models by avoiding tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs. The two groups work with teachers and coaches to choose role models from each school. Participants agree to remain free of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs and pledge to speak to students.
Posters of students in athletic poses are distributed to schools and businesses.
Locally, the program is sponsored by Smoke Free Perry County, the Perry County Substance Abuse Committee, PSC, First State Bank and Perry County Memorial Hospital.
Seniors Brooke Powers of Cannelton High School, Austin Hauser from Perry Central High School and Tell City High School's Lauren Goffinet are this year's participants. Each spoke at the Feb. 18 Tell City Kiwanis meeting.
Hauser said the decision not to use tobacco was part of his larger goal of leading a healthy life. He welcomes the opportunity to help guide those who look up to him in the classroom and football field.
"I'm happy to be a role model and I try to be a positive influence," Hauser said, pointing to his respect for stars such as Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning.
"You don't hear about them getting into trouble or using steroids," Hauser said.
Goffinet shared portions of her talks with younger students, including a breathing activity using straws that mimics the effects of smoking on the lungs. A large inflatable cigarette represents the amount of tobacco a one-pack-a-day smoker consumes in a year's time. Other displays show the impact of tobacco on lungs, turning them from pink to dark.
"To be active you have to breathe freely and you can't do that when you have decreased lung capacity," she said.
Powers shared statistics about the ongoing impact of tobacco use on young people, including one study that showed 4,000 teens each day try tobacco for the first time. Up to 2,000 will become regular smokers.
Powers is one of 40 student athletes chosen to participate in a youth speakers bureau program, which provides role models with insights necessary to deliver speeches on the importance of remaining tobacco-free.
The 40 participants in this year's program were chosen from the 128 student-athletes that are part of the role model program. After attending the training session, Powers has honed her anti-tobacco speech, which she will present to groups throughout her community, such as Kiwanians.
"Anti-tobacco messages from top-notch student-athletes like Brooke pack a powerful punch, as peer influence is the main reason many teens begin, and continue smoking," said IHSAA Commissioner Blake Ress. "With this program, these role models have taken their commitment to positively influence their communities to a new level."
For more information on local tobacco prevention and cessation efforts, contact Jan Sprinkle, Youth Service Bureau director at Lincoln Hills Development Corp., at 547-3435.