More than 400 teens from across Tennessee gathered at the Sevierville Convention Center July 17-19, 2016 to take part in the Tennessee Department of Health’s first-ever FACT Summit, a statewide tobacco prevention conference for youth. “FACT” stands for Free and Clear Tennessee, envisioning a state free of tobacco and nicotine addiction where everyone enjoys clear air.
The FACT Summit provided a forum for participants representing 51 Tennessee counties to create a youth-led movement of peer-to-peer education and advocacy for prevention of tobacco and nicotine addiction across Tennessee. Participants received training and learned strategies from both nationally recognized experts and their Tennessee peers for implementing effective tobacco and nicotine addiction prevention activities in their own communities.
“It is a ‘FACT’ that most people addicted to nicotine started as kids, so we are very excited about this new opportunity for Tennessee youth leaders to help lead our state away from tobacco products, the leading cause of preventable death in the world,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “The ‘FACT’ is most Tennesseans do not smoke or use tobacco or nicotine delivery products. It’s also a ‘FACT’ that teens can have a powerful impact on others by modeling and advocating for physically active lifestyles and smoke-free places and spaces.”
Teen participants in the FACT Summit have named their new movement #TNSTRONG, which stands for Tennessee Stop Tobacco and Revolutionize Our New Generation. FACT Summit participants have been challenged and empowered through participation in the summit to continue their advocacy for tobacco and nicotine addiction prevention when they return home. They elected their first group of Teen Tobacco-Free Ambassadors who will now serve in leading their peers in prevention activities across the state and organizing the summit for next year. The Ambassadors are: Pate Anglin, Carter County; Mary Beth Edwards, Stewart County; Olivia Harvey, Rhea County; Tyler James Keatts, Stewart County; Maya Rao, Putnam County and Lance Tamui, Shelby County.
“I want to change Tennessee,” said Teen Ambassador Tyler Keatts of Stewart County. “I want to go home and make Stewart County the first county that is tobacco-free.”
“The Summit meant to me meeting new people and conversing about our ideas to make one ream of making Tennessee the first tobacco-free state come true,” said Teen Ambassador Olivia Harvey of Rhea County.
Partners in the FACT Summit included Healthier Tennessee, the Center for Tobacco Products, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Truth Initiative®, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tips from Former Smokers campaign and the Shelby County Health Department.
The FACT Summit and Teen Ambassador Program are modeled on successful peer-to-peer tobacco and nicotine addiction prevention efforts in other states including Texas and Mississippi. The FACT Summit was provided at no cost to participants with funding from the Tennessee Tobacco Settlement. TDH tobacco prevention and health education staff members also received training at the FACT Summit to support ongoing youth tobacco and nicotine addiction prevention activities in their communities.
Photo: Tennessee’s FACT Summit 2016/Facebook