A group of teenagers set out to make a difference in their community, and succeeded.
Members of the Garden City High School LiveWell Committee were honored recently for their part in trying to curb cigarette and other tobacco use among young people.
With an assist from local health advocates, the GCHS group participated in a Tobacco 21 campaign to move the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 years old.
The endeavor succeeded when the Garden City Commission in April joined other Kansas communities that passed a T21 policy.
On July 1, Garden City became the first southwest Kansas community to endorse the wise attempt to deter young people from picking up a habit known to cause cancer, heart disease and other deadly ailments.
Nationwide each day, more than 3,200 people younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reports more than 10 percent of Kansas high school students smoke, compared to nearly 18 percent of Kansas adults.
Teens in Kansas reportedly buy or smoke nearly 5 million packs of cigarettes a year. And they too often find that once they start, it’s difficult to stop.
It’s all cause for local and state governments in Kansas and beyond to back proven ways to discourage young people from ever lighting up or chewing, to include T21 rules that also should make it tougher for still younger teens to obtain tobacco.
For example, a 16-year-old who previously could get cigarettes from an 18-year-old classmate legally able to buy such products would have a tougher time getting them from someone 21 or older.
Those involved in working toward the local ordinance recently received the 2017 Ambassador Award from the University of Kansas Cancer Center. Congratulations to Hannah Schultz, Grace Schmidt, Garret Kipp, Cambry Hitchcock, Caroline Robinson, Grace Reagle, Paola Rodriguez and Agustin Rodriguez.
How encouraging to see the youthful contingent at the forefront of health-conscious change intended to help their peers.
Instead of relying on the older folks to step up, they took action — and, in doing so, set an example for their fellow citizens of all ages.