Holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends. Most of us will be traveling out of town, out of state or even out of country to join our loved ones. In fact, AAA estimates that nearly 29 million Americans will hit in the road for the end of the year holidays. However, close to 28,000 Americans will be seriously injured due to car accidents; and roughly 250 people will die from injuries sustained during an accident.
This blog post isn't some statistical scare tactic, nor is it an opportunity to cite all the wrongdoings of Americans. This is simply a reminder that driving impaired is never a good idea; especially around the holidays. Remember, driving under the influence affects everyone on the road, not just the driver. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind when prepping for any holiday festivities:
1. If you're attending a party, make sure to always have a designated driver. Ensure your DD is someone who will uphold the responsibility.
2. Try to avoid driving at night, if possible. It's understandable that in some situations this task is unavoidable, but staying put for the night could be the safest option.
3. Put down your phone. Drivers are already distracted with kids, making early time and the party at the end of the tunnel. By adding phone use to the equation is creating even more of a risk.
4. Be wary of severe weather changes. In Washington, it tends to be pretty unlikely snow will fall; but, in the case that it does, drivers should be prepared with alternate routes and snow chains.
5. When in doubt, do not get behind the wheel. Even if you've only had a couple of drinks, avoid driving at all costs. As previously noted, impaired driving affects everyone on the roadway. Don't be a statistic that could end multiple lives.
All in all, we at TAC want to wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season. We hope this blog was an informative reminder about the importance of driving cautiously. Be well and stay safe!
E-Cigarettes & Youth
Last week, TAC Staff attended the annual Tobacco-Free Alliance of Pierce County, or TAP, Summit. This was a great opportunity to learn more about how tobacco and tobacco products are affecting youth near our area. It's a given Tacoma is considerably bigger than all Pacific County put together, however, if youth in Pierce County are experimenting with e-cigarettes, there is a good chance it will soon become popular in our area.
Some of you may be wondering, "what exactly is an 'e-cigarette'?" E-cigarette stands for electronic cigarette. These devices are made up of three basic components: a power source, typically a battery, an e-liquid that contains nicotine and atomizer (a device that emits liquid, as a fine spray. Think of how perfume works).
Photos are courtesy of Dr. Lynne Dawkins.
Within the e-cigarettes is something referred to as vapor or e-liquid. The components of these liquids are: propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, nicotine and flavoring. Research has shown that the nicotine levels can vary from 6-36 mg/l; and even though users can find nicotine free brands, tests are showing traces of nicotine can still be found within the vapor.
So, how do e-cigarettes affect youth? Well, the nearly 8,000 flavors are a good starting point. These flavors can range anywhere from caramel, cheesecake, gummy bear and even chocolate. Not to mention the 'smoke' that is formed from the device smells like candy. During a youth panel at the TAP Summit, it was revealed that students are using e-devices because adults cannot detect the smell of the candy scented vapor on their clothing.
The marketing aspects of e-cigarettes are very similar to the marketing used for tobacco. According to the National Cancer Institute, there has been a 256% increase in e-cigarette advertising since 2011. It's not a secret that tobacco and nicotine companies find specific ways to target adolescents in their advertising. With themes like "sex and glamour", "freedom and rebellion" and even "fun and healthy", researchers are discovering 31% of youth think e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes. However, at least 50% of youth have yet to form an opinion regarding the dangers of e-cigarettes.
At this point, there are only state and local regulations that are preventing 'sales' to minors. There are proposed FDA regulations that will prohibit all sales to minors, but for now, it is just a proposal. There isn't much information regarding the long term health risks around this emerging market. However, this doesn't mean there won't be any dangers and it definitely doesn't mean youth should be using them. These products are evolving in more ways than one; now is the time to start the discussion with youth regarding the hazards of e-cigarettes.
Facts and research from this blog were on behalf of Dr. Jessica K. Pepper, Center for Regulatory Research on Tobacco Communication. University of North Carolina.
Peer Helper Retreat 2014
The Teen Advocacy Coalition, (TAC), held the 4th annual Peer Helper Retreat on November 1st – November 3rd at the Ocean Park Retreat Center. Students from the five Pacific county high schools were invited to attend the weekend retreat where they received various trainings to assist their peers in times of crisis. This event was funded by TAC’s Drug Free Communities Grant (DFC).
Students were selected to attend the retreat by their peers. Each high school was surveyed at the beginning of September. In the survey, students were asked to identify their top issues in their schools. Then, students select up to four peers they would feel comfortable confiding in if they had a problem that arose. Each of the local high schools, South Bend, Raymond, Willapa Valley, Naselle and Ilwaco could bring around 10 students.
“This is the largest event TAC hosts,” Gracie Manlow, TAC/DFC Project Coordinator, said. “The students do some pretty heavy reflecting about the issues within their schools and how they can change things for the better.”
Various trainings were offered throughout the weekend. This allowed students to gain skills and knowledge in the issues their peers identified as major problems in their schools. This year, the sessions included, “Healthy Relationships”, “Substance Abuse: Prevention” and “Know Your Rights” which featured information regarding the legal aspects of bullying.
“Students are trained on ‘how to’ assist a friend or classmate,” Manlow said. “The main focus of TAC’s mission statement is to promote pro-social activities that will strengthen mental health and reduce substance abuse.”
The Peer Helper Retreat added a new element into the weekend: a mini grant project. Each school was asked to build a campaign focused on a major issue in their school. Students completed applications, which asked for a dollar amount of funding, and presented their projects in front of a panel of judges. Each of the projects had a similar overlying theme of “Drug Prevention”, and the grant judges were able to award funding to each school. The teams will receive their money in early 2015.
TAC would like to thank its many volunteers, chaperones and presenters for making the 2014 Peer Helper Retreat a success. TAC also extends thanks to the Ocean Park Retreat staff and the local high schools for their continued participation and support.
“We are here for the teens,” Manlow said. “We wouldn’t exist as a coalition if it weren’t for teen involvement.”
Tac's New board!
At December 8th monthly TAC meeting, six new officers were elected onto TAC's Board. These volunteers ran unopposed and were unanimously voted in by the entire coalition.
Chair: Emily Popovich
Vice Chair: Lyndsey Owen
Treasurer: Jessica Verboomen
Secretary: Paul Turner
Member-at-Large: Laurie Johnson
Member-at-Large: Sharon Block
Congrats to the new board! The next step will be establishing a time and place for the TAC board retreat. The TAC staff looks forward to working with all of you.