LAWTON —Tomara Fizzell already has plans to keep her infant niece smoke-free. As soon as her niece is old enough, Fizzell, a senior at MacArthur High School, intends to teach her the consequences of smoking.
But for now, Fizzell campaigns for other youths to stay smoke-free through the Lawton-Fort Sill High School Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Team, which was nationally recognized this year for its efforts at preventing tobacco use.
Among other prevention actions, the group targets lawmakers to make antismoking policies. Composed of students from three Comanche County high schools, the group recently won the national Group Advocates of the Year Award by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Group focuses on risks of second-hand smoke
This year, the students focused on second-hand smoke and urged lawmakers to support a tobacco-free parks initiative.
Sarah Byrd, MacArthur High School senior and SWAT Team president, said second-hand smoke is extremely harmful to youths because they breathe it in. She also said cigarette butts in public parks are dangerous because children and animals can pick them up and eat them.
This year, the high school team partnered with the even larger middle school group to do several park cleanups.
"It's disturbing to see that many cigarettes located in parks," Byrd said.
According to a presentation put together by the group, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, and the International Code Council picked up enough butts in 2005 to reach from the ground to the moon and back.
In May, group members visited Capitol Hill to present their ideas to lawmakers, including making health-risk information larger on cigarette packages and strengthening FDA regulations on tobacco.
Rebecca Bullard, MacArthur senior and SWAT Team research chairperson, said several lawmakers "weren't too happy" about the students' visit because some receive campaign donations from the tobacco industry.
"It kind of took a lot of (lawmakers) and their assistants by surprise how informed we were," Byrd said.
Bullard said the tobacco industry "blatantly targets youth" with posters and other advertisements targeting children, especially young girls.
The students said a lot of their friends in high school smoke, and they are trying to stop others from doing so.
For more information
The Lawton-Fort Sill Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Team is one of approximately 150 active school-based and community-based SWAT Teams in the state, consisting of about 3,500 teens. For more information, visit www.okswat.com.