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Perham Boys and Girls Club members get state, national recognition for anti-tobacco activism

Perham-Being aware of the dangers of smoking, and teaching that to a young audience, may well be the key to preventing kids from starting the habit. To that end, Jason McCoy, tobacco prevention coordinator with Partnership4Health, works with the ...

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Perham-Being aware of the dangers of smoking, and teaching that to a young audience, may well be the key to preventing kids from starting the habit.

To that end, Jason McCoy, tobacco prevention coordinator with Partnership4Health, works with the young people at the Boys and Girls Club of the Perham Area, sharing facts about the detrimental physical effects of smoking, laws designed to curb the addiction, and statistics about users.

He also helps them realize they can have an impact and create change.

For the past two summers, McCoy has worked with teens attending a Youth Leadership Camp, where they learned about the effects of tobacco advertising and how it is directed at teens. As part of the camp, advocacy at home, with peers and in the community was emphasized.

As a result of their new awareness, the teens created a series of anti-tobacco commercials, which are airing on TV3, a local access channel, and national photo advocacy campaigns.

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“The students really had an eye for this project,” McCoy said.

The students also looked at how they saw tobacco influencing their community, recording that in video form and through photos taken around Perham.

Their efforts paid off when one of their pictures, which McCoy submitted for an award through Counter Tobacco’s national anti-tobacco advertising campaign, received an honorable mention.

That photo may now be used in anti-tobacco campaigns throughout the United States.

The photo, taken in Perham by a Boys and Girls Club member, asks, “Isn’t there another option?” as another club member stands in front of a window with three cigarette ads displayed.

“The kids were excited,” McCoy said of the teen’s reaction upon hearing the news.

About 25 pre-teen and teenaged kids meet at Calvary Lutheran Church in Perham on a daily basis, and several were a part of the award-winning work.

Younger members take part in club activities at the former Perham hospital and clinic building.

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Members of the Boys and Girls Club also created a presentation, which was presented to the Perham City Council. McCoy requested amendments to the city’s tobacco ordinance and the council adopted the changes, restricting tobacco in city parks and e-cigarettes wherever other tobacco products are restricted. The council also agreed to change the signage at all city buildings and parks to reflect the ordinance changes.

“Perham is leading Otter Tail County with passage of this ordinance,” McCoy told council members.

McCoy then submitted the club’s community activism effort and resulting ordinance change to the Minnesota Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Prevention for its Youth Creating Change award, and it was selected for recognition.

“It was a great lesson in the power these kids can have to effect change,” McCoy said.

The Perham club is a unit under the Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, according to unit director Cori Brown. It opened in June 2011 with 50 members; this year, average daily attendance was 110. Throughout the year, 240 members have taken advantage of programs offered locally.

For more information on the club, call Brown at 346-2526.

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