Landrum Middle School was honored recently by the Aspire anti-tobacco program affiliated with the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for top-rank level participation in a Red Ribbon Week Challenge event.
On Nov. 15, Aspire program leaders announced on Facebook Live that the SBISD middle school campus was one of 10 schools in the Houston region with the most participants taking part in an online training program for students. A campus visit was then held on Nov. 28 to recognize students and staff.
The Facebook Live announcement on Nov. 15 coincided with annual observance of the Great American Smokeout Day.
In all, Landrum reports that 523 students participated in M.D. Anderson’s Aspire online training program, which is designed to teach students in a bilingual format about dangers associated with tobacco and nicotine products, including such new and popular teen user options as vaping, jeweling, dip use and e-cigarettes.
Aspire program directors first announced Landrum and other schools as winners in the 2018 Red Ribbon Week Challenge. Red ribbons were worn by families after an agent in the Drug Enforcement Agency was murdered decades ago, marking a need to raise awareness about the death and the destruction caused by drugs, alcohol and tobacco products. The first national Red Ribbon Celebration was held in 1988.
The Aspire program helps middle and high school teens learn about the dangers of tobacco and nicotine use so that they never start smoking. For those who are using, evidence-based information and tips on quitting are provided.
The most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey found that vaping has increased 78 percent among high school students since 2017, and almost 48 percent among middle school students, said U.S. News and World Report. A teen interviewed by the magazine estimated that up to 80 percent of classmates used e-cigarettes and that vaping devices can be purchased easily from convenience stores that don’t check IDs.
In another report, twice as many high school students used electronic cigarettes this year compared with last year, according to a federally funded survey by the University of Michigan, which researchers attributed to newer versions of e-cigarettes, like those by Juul, which can be used discreetly.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently has introduced more marketplace rules and regulations in an attempt to curb the proliferation of e-cigarette flavoring, as well as teen marketing. Principals also told the U.S. News reporters that they are observing a boom in student use.
On a positive note, the University of Michigan survey found that usage of alcohol, cigarettes and more serious drugs all declined. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, explained that kids are increasingly staying home and communicating on smartphones rather than hanging out: “Drug experimentation is a group activity,” she noted.