Students from Empire High School are taking action to end the use of tobacco and vaping products at their school and across Pima County. They appeared before the Tucson City Council asking them to join 350 other cities across the country that have already enacted laws to prevent the sale of these products to teens.
And, they were successful. The City Council voted unanimously to draft an ordinance which will raise the smoking age inside the city limits to 21 from 18.
Who are these students? They are members of SWAT, Student Wellness Advocacy Team, at Empire High School under the direction of Health and PE teacher Jeff VanArsdale. The program began with 15 students in 2010 and has grown to 105 students across several different committees including anti-tobacco, nutrition, physical activity, anti-violence, mental health, school culture, etc. Students research and build awareness programs to impact not only their school, but their entire community.
SWAT is student lead and driven. Last year these students met with anti-tobacco specialists and developed their presentation for the mayor and city council. Students also participated in a District Food Service Advisory Council, developed healthy recipes, held awareness events on campus, and added recipes to the school menu. And, last year the Physical Activity Committee was awarded $4,000.00 through Fuel Up to Play 60/NFL to complete physical activity advocacy at Empire.
Their success is being noticed… and even duplicated. SWAT students have developed an online diversion program for anti-tobacco education, which is currently being taken by students who violate school tobacco and vaping policies. The program has been sought after and is now being duplicated in Marana and Benson.
Way to go Vail teens!