Prevention is the cornerstone public health strategy that operates upstream of the burdens of failing health and increasing health care costs. Each day about 2,300 kids in the United States try their first cigarette and an additional 350 become new daily users. In Texas there are more than 13,700 new daily smokers each year. Prevention—stopping people from starting to smoke in the first place—is the best means for improving health and decreasing health care costs in the long term. Campus-wide engagement in tobacco prevention activities establishes a culture of respect for all, promotes health and will ultimately impact the estimated $8.85 billion annual cost to Texas.
PEERS AGAINST TOBACCO PROGRAMS
Peers Against Tobacco (PAT) is a system-level, multi-component, coordinated tobacco prevention program for colleges and universities in the state of Texas. PAT is funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and designed and implemented through The University of Texas at Austin Tobacco Re- search and Evaluation Team. There are currently 22 participating PAT schools across the state, including two- and four-year public and private colleges and universities. The program’s overall goal is to reduce the use of tobacco and other alternative tobacco products (e.g., electronic cigarettes, hookah) among college and university students, and ultimately to change the overall tobacco landscape of Texas colleges and universities. Each participating school must build or expand on a campus peer group, implement outreach campaigns, choose sustainable tobacco prevention goals, and assess the tobacco environment on and around their campus.
In April of 2017, a total of 30 representatives from seven PAT schools participated in the PAT Advocacy Training held over the course of three days in Austin, Texas. The event provided participants the opportunity to learn about the role of politics in tobacco control work and included an overview of the state legislative process from the MD Anderson staff. Participants listened to presentations regarding the importance of changing the tobacco climate by advocating, using effective social media messaging, and investing in partnerships. Experts in public health, policy, enforcement and marketing offered valuable training to the participants. Participants were given the chance to discuss tobacco policies and learn ways to educate legislators on tobacco prevention. Students presented and shared stories about their successes with the PAT program and with other tobacco prevention efforts in their college communities. The following seven schools participated in the Advocacy Training: Austin College, UT Arlington, Prairie View A&M, UT Tyler, UT Austin, Ranger College, and Wiley College.
Say What! Texas Tobacco-Free Conference
During July of 2017, PAT collaborated with the Students, Adults, and Youth Working Hard Against Tobacco (Say What!) program to host and provide a college track at a Texas Tobacco- Free conference in Montgomery. The Say What! conference consisted of training and networking opportunities for students interested in peer-led tobacco prevention and control programming. The event provided some PAT participating schools a chance to get a head start on planning their tobacco prevention and control efforts for the upcoming school year, as well as an opportunity to promote PAT among high school juniors and seniors who attended the conference. There were 30 individuals from the following seven schools that attended the PAT Say What! conference college track: Austin College, Jarvis Christian College, Ranger College, UT Arlington, UT Austin, UT Dallas, and UT Tyler.
A peer-led initiative helping eradicate tobacco use on college campuses across Texas.