By Anna Guido
SHARONVILLE - Michelle Bush plays volleyball, volunteers at the Cincinnati Museum Center and maintains a 4.0 grade point average. She also campaigns earnestly against cigarette smoking.
"I can't stand that people smoke," the 15-year-old Princeton High School sophomore said. "You'd think a lot of people would not do something knowing all of the health problems it causes."
That attitude landed Michelle a spot for two straight years on the Stand Teen Advisory Panel, an Ohio volunteer group that takes its "Stand Up, Speak Out" message against tobacco use across the state.
"If I could just reach a couple of people," Michelle said. "Even if I don't know who I helped, it's important for me to get the word out."
The Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation began the Stand campaign in 2002 to address the rates of tobaccouse among Ohio youth.
According to a 2002 survey by the Ohio Department of Health, 32.6 percent of Ohio high school students use tobacco. The national rate is 22.4 percent. In addition, 15 percent of Ohio middle school students report use they tobacco. The national rate is 9.4 percent.
Ohio's smoking rate among adults is eighth-highest in the nation, according to a 2002 survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kentucky was ranked first and Indiana fifth.
"Hundreds of people die a day from the effects of cigarette smoking," said Kevin Ma, 18, a Princeton High junior also named for the second year to the teen advisory panel.
"This is so preventable - it's something that shouldn't be allowed to happen," he said.
Kevin, Michelle and 45 other Ohio teens are serving on the panel this year, along with James Scholtz, a Withrow High School freshman; and Samantha Webb, a Mason High School junior.
The teens are urged to:
Talk to peers about the dangers of tobacco use.
Encourage peers to join the Stand campaign.
Ask peers to sign petitions to take tobacco use out of movies, MTV and other entertainment.
Ask peers to write postcards to their favorite stars asking them not to use or glamorize tobacco.
Funding for the Stand campaign comes from the national tobacco settlement.
Call (513) 636-0062, or www.standonline.org
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