Anti-Valentine’s Day dance raises awareness of smoking dangers

As cigarette and other tobacco product usage drops in young adult populations, organizations around the country are ramping up their efforts to keep people as informed about the risks as possible, so they can quit before they even begin.

As part of a grant the Carter County Drug Prevention coalition received in partnership with the Truth campaign, the coalition will be hosting an “Anti-Valentine’s Day dance” on February 16.

Director Jilian Reece said the dance is a way for students to connect with the campaign; all they have to do in order to attend is register for the campaign’s text messaging service, which will periodically send text messages about the dangers of smoking, including statistics.

“We know Truth was started by youth, and they are still prevalent in the organization,” Reece said.

She said the dance itself was born out of the complex emotions that often surround Valentine’s Day for many teenagers.

“The board felt the holiday is tricky for many students, so we decided to do an anti-Valentine’s Day instead,” she said.

The dance will feature broken heart cookies and many other anti-Valentine’s celebrations throughout the evening.

“This is just a night for teenagers to relax and enjoy,” she said.

The dance is part of a $1,500 grant CCDP received from Truth at the tail-end of last year, allowing CCDP to host three different events in partnership with the campaign. She said the grant is invitation-only, meaning they had to look at what CCDP was doing in their community and chose to give them the money.

“Our youth work really hard to change the culture in their communities here,” Reece said. “It is really exciting for these students to be recognized in this way.”

Reece said the coalition has planned the other two events as part of the grant. March 16 will feature a “Kick Butts Kickball” tournament, and they will host a Home-school Field Day on May 14.

The Truth campaign has begun a push to end e-cigarette and vape usage among teenagers and young adults, a campaign that has encountered some resistance in recent years.

Reece said the statistics the campaign brings to the table are important.

“They have evidence-based strategies that they have tested, and they know they work,” Reece said. “My perception is they take the stance of brutal honesty. Sometimes we sugar-coat things.”

The dance will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Center, located at 300 W. Mill St.

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