Several students from Ironwood High School participated in the Great American Smokeout Nov. 20, challenging some customers at a nearby CVS pharmacy store to quit cold turkey and helping others make a plan to stop smoking.
Jo Ann Brown, a prevention specialist for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, credited CVS with removing all cigarettes and tobacco products from its shelves last month and making a store available for the educational efforts of those students.
About 10 local youth attended that event on the sidewalk of the CVS store at 75th Avenue and Cactus Road. They belong to Students Taking a New Direction, an anti-tobacco coalition of teens and students from across Arizona.
Dominique Arvizu, a high school senior and a cousin to Brown, serves as secretary of the club at Ironwood. She began recruiting students in August, primarily through lunchtime events, and the club now has 30 active members.
Dominique said she really likes the club and educating different kinds of people about the harmful effects of tobacco. She said some of the students at her school sneak off and smoke at Desert Valley Park, which adjoins their campus.
Before their school day starts, she has also seen fellow Ironwood students smoking on and around playground equipment at the park, which is sandwiched between Ironwood and Desert Valley Elementary School.
Dominique held up a large freezer bag filled with 100 to 200 cigarette butts that she and fellow STAND students at Ironwood collected from the park in just an hour one day.
Two years ago, the Arizona Youth Survey, administered by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, sampled middle and high school students in Maricopa County and found 26 percent had tried smoking before. That was down from 31 percent in 2010.
Brown cited a recent decision by the City of Goodyear to ban tobacco from its parks.
That city’s website said its parks “are now smoke-free environments, providing park visitors with healthier, more pleasant environments for recreation and relaxation, as well as reducing litter and cleanup costs.”
Smokers can still light up at designated areas within parking lots.
STAND hopes to change smoking laws and policies in other cities throughout the Valley, said Brown, who graduated from Ironwood and also coordinates with anti-tobacco programs at high schools in Phoenix and Avondale.
The Ironwood club members plan to clean another park Dec. 13 and will celebrate Kick Butts Day March 18.
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