When the Iowa Legislature created the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control, they stressed the importance of youth involvement in reducing tobacco use among young people in Iowa.
It was suggested that the best way to do this was to hold an annual youth summit on tobacco. The first summit was held in July 2000. Over 130 students attended the summit and created the JEL (Just Eliminate Lies) name. It was at this summit that the JEL movement formed.
The third annual summit held in July 2002 was attended by 550 Iowa youth. Currently, there are over 7,000 members from every county in the state.
JEL gives Iowa teens the true, unfiltered facts about the tobacco industry's marketing efforts and coordinates activities to fight industry efforts that try to manipulate them into using tobacco. The goals of JEL are to change the general social attitude towards tobacco use, raise awareness through education, create effective counter-marketing, protect the rights of all Iowans from secondhand smoke, and support cessation among the young tobacco user so they quit or never begin using tobacco.
Recently, the Cherokee County Community Health Department and the Wellness Center teamed up to offer a JEL fun night. Teens and preteens from all over Cherokee county were invited to attend.
They were able to swim, play basketball, and participate in discussions and activities regarding the use of tobacco. When students answered questions about tobacco, they were given prizes such as T-shirts and water bottles.
Garrin Buttermore, Iowa JEL Coordinator, was available to present information and asked questions of the youth about what they knew about tobacco use. More that thirty students from Marcus, Cherokee, and Aurelia attended and expressed interest in becoming active in the JEL program. Kala Knight, RN from Cherokee County Community Health, said that efforts to include more youth in the program are undergoing since many of those active last year graduated.
The JEL movement is a youth led program where those participating decide how, when, and where they will share information with others.
Buttermore says the program is working; youth tobacco use has gone down every year since JEL formed. "JEL is working hard to keep high school students involved in removing themselves as the target of tobacco companies," states Buttermore. He also says the interesting thing seen in youth surveys is that over 30 percent of high school students used cigarettes but when JEL was founded, the figure has dropped below 20 percent. "
Empowering young people to take action against a product that will addict and kill them is a successful prevention strategy," says Buttermore.
Buttermore concludes, "We've known for a long time tobacco is bad for you. JEL and the young people of Iowa are turning the tide against those who would profit for the addiction and death of our loved ones. The time for tobacco to end is now, before another generation suffers."
Knight also shares some facts about tobacco use. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease and is responsible for more than 4,000 deaths annually in Iowa alone.
To obtain more information about JEL contact Kala Knight, who is the county JEL coordinator, at the Cherokee County Community Health office by calling 225-6718. She is the coordinator for JEL in Cherokee county. People can also log onto www.JELiowa.org for more information about the program.