Lyons featured speaker at RAZE kick-off

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia’s RAZE program hosted the second of its annual Regional Raze Kick-Off Events at the Waterfront Place Hotel to educate the state’s youth about the harmful effects of tobacco use.

Wes Lyons, former West Virginia University football player and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver, headlined the event, speaking about pursuing dreams and staying focused. Students from Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall counties attended, along with students from other northern West Virginia counties.

Lyons shared the lessons he learned while pursuing athletic and academic success and encouraged the participants to work hard, stay dedicated and avoid temptations such as tobacco.

Participants learned about the dangers of tobacco use and the marketing tactics used by the tobacco industry to target minors. They also took part in team-building activities and sessions to strengthen their knowledge and ability to fight back against the tobacco industry. Topics covered included how to share the tobacco free message through social media, ideas for hands-on activities to raise awareness and spread the Raze message, and what to do when a friend or parent wants to quit using tobacco. The students cast votes for the Teen Advisory Council candidates who will serve as the leaders of the organization.

Recent data show decreases in tobacco usage among the state’s high school and middle school students between 2000 and 2013. Specifically, the West Virginia Youth Tobacco Survey indicated that tobacco use in any form, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and cigars, decreased by 32 percent among the state’s high school students and by 45 percent among the state’s middle school students between 2000 and 2013.

“Raze is really having an impact on youth tobacco use in West Virginia,” said David Deutsch, Youth Tobacco Prevention Program manager. “The prevalence decreases we’re seeing are encouraging, but there is still a lot of work to be done in this state. For example, our rate of spit tobacco use is quite high – around a quarter of our high school males use this form of tobacco. Nevertheless, overall we’re seeing some significant improvements in youth tobacco use in this state.”