Shelby Youth takes her Tobacco Free Message to College

Sarah Sanchez is a recipient of the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention $5,000 Collegiate Scholarship. Sarah has been a member of reACT, which is Montana’s teen-led movement against Big Tobacco.  reACT joins statewide youth empowerment movements across the country in recognizing the power of young people to effectively take on the leading cause of preventable death: commercial tobacco use.

In her hometown of Shelby, Sarah has become an active agent of change. "Our youth group has put on many activities for the school students as well as the elementary students to participate in." Sarah wrote in her application. Some of the highlights of her years in reACT were putting "together a presentation for Empowering Your Life Day, where we created a simulation of chew tobacco and educated students on the dangers of using Chew. I also made a display for the Great American Smoke Out in which our group developed large cigarettes where students could sign and make a commitment to never start the use of tobacco or to quit. During Red Ribbon week we helped the elementary students hang red ribbons on the school fence to show that Shelby Schools are tobacco free."

Sarah has seen how Montana's Clean Indoor Air Act has affected her and her family. "My Grandmother decided to quit smoking because she hated having to smoke in the cold, because her apartment building did not allow smoking indoors. Not only has it affected my Grandmother but my brother has asthma and has a hard time breathing, because of the Clean Indoor Air Act my family and I can go to a restaurant and not worry about the smoke filling the room."

As a leader she hopes to bring more awareness to the dangers of smoking and chewing to her peer crowd. "The biggest issue with tobacco … is that they think smoking or chewing tobacco is cool. Not only is it peer pressure that get kids into tobacco products but also that the big tobacco companies are targeting the younger age groups in order to replace the dying generations who run their business."

Sarah has plans to attend Montana State University in Bozeman this fall.   In 2013, Montana State University – Bozeman adopted a tobacco free campus policy to provide "a safe and healthy environment free from tobacco use for its students, employees and visitors". She hopes to pursue a degree in Emergency Medicine and continue to be a member of reACT (Bacchus) at the collegiate level and recruit new members to increase the awareness of tobacco products. "I would also personally reach out to younger children… because I believe that is when tobacco awareness needs to be addressed."