About 300 high school students from across Iowa are learning new ways to "rise up against Big Tobacco" at the Just Eliminate Lies Summit in Grinnell.
JEL president Lyn Peck says the three-day conference offers workshops designed to educate teens about the health effects of tobacco use, secondhand smoke and the "continued manipulation" of teens by tobacco companies.
Peck, who recently graduated from Harmony High School in Farmington, says the workshops focus on things like teaching the basic facts about tobacco, how to talk with legislators, and how to do "street marketing."
She says the JEL messages are having an impact as a study finds a substantial 46 percent reduction in smoking among Iowa high school-age teens since 2000.
"I hope that everybody learns how to go back to their own communities and do events and change policies and learn how to just be more effective in the JEL program," Peck says.
The 300 teens attending the summit are JEL’s top activists in Iowa, while the group has ten-thousand members statewide, most of them high schoolers.
Peck says attendance at this year’s eighth annual state JEL summit is up 26 percent from last year. Peck says there are commercials that interest kids, their peers encourage them to sign up, and she credits this year’s passage of the dollar-a-pack increase in tobacco taxes with keeping the membership numbers growing.
"I’ve been around second-hand smoke all my life and I’ve always hated being around smoke and try to encourage my family members to quit, my friends to quit. I just know what it does to you and I just really hate tobacco and wanted to make a difference and get involved in making policy changes," Peck says.
The summit opened Tuesday and concludes Thursday. The event wraps up with three "street marketing" events as students ride in bus caravans from Grinnell to Cedar Falls, Iowa City and Des Moines where they will advocate smoke-free policies in restaurants.