Youth attend state-wide TNStrong conference in Murfreesboro

Many students might take the first couple of weeks off of school to sleep in or catch up with friends without the looming fear of coursework. Some Carter County students, however, continued their work just as they had before, but on a larger scale.

Members of the Carter County Drug Prevention Youth Board recently returned from the annual TNStrong Youth Summit in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, taking with them new understandings about the tobacco industry and ways to counter its influence on young culture.

Rising eighth grader Cloe Clark said this was her first year attending.

“It was cool,” Clark said. “I got to see other people’s opinions on things.”

CCDP has been sending members of its youth board to this conference for four years now, and rising high school sophomore Reece Townsend said he has attended every single one.

“It is mostly about stopping tobacco companies,” Townsend said. “It showed us what we can do.”

The conference took place over a three-day period from Sunday, June 2, through Tuesday, June 4.

Townsend said the conference taught new methods to counter new challenges in their communities, including education about Juul.

“Juul has the same amount of nicotine as a regular cigarette,” he said. “People need to know about this.”

Juul has appeared in the news since its popularity jumped in the last year, promoting itself as an alternative to traditional smoking, and though it has become popular among the younger crowd, experts are conflicted over whether the product’s claims have evidence to back them.

“I actually taught a Breakout session,” Townsend said, which is where participants learn how to spread the word to other people about the harmful effects of tobacco products, including making posters and videos.

“It was all about how to create your media,” he said.

They said they even got the chance to speak with Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron.

Clark said it was important to learn about tactics companies use to sell their products because they directly affect her generation.

“Every year it is something different,” Townsend said.

He said the conference was also a chance to connect with other advocacy groups in the region and exchange ideas for ways to spread their message.

“They showed us what we can do,” he said.

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