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My name is Jacey Gray-Hall and I’m a junior at Shorewood High School. This year school and our everyday lives have been very different because of COVID, and the holidays will look different this year too. We won’t be traveling to see our family, and our shopping will be done online. We’re doing our part by staying safe and being tobacco free.
Even though things are tough this year, there is much to be thankful for. One of them is being part of FACT, which I joined two years ago. Being part of FACT, Wisconsin’s youth-driven tobacco prevention movement, has allowed me to help other teens avoid the problems that come from having an addiction to a deadly product like tobacco. It’s a hard thing to do, especially when tobacco companies target kids by selling candy and fruit flavored products.
That’s why I’m thankful that Milwaukee Public Schools joined a lawsuit against JUUL and Altria for targeting youth with e-cigarettes. I have seen first hand what vapes are doing to my peers and kids around my age throughout the city. It was a big step for them to join that lawsuit in support of young people. It was especially important when you think about all the pressure young people have faced since March 13th, the day they officially closed all schools. Teens like myself have been really stressed. If we weren’t able to exercise still I’m not sure how I’d be handling my mental health.
Just imagine the kids who don’t have basic information about tobacco and e-cigarettes, especially during the pandemic. They might turn to what is most accessible to deal with stress, one of those things being tobacco. People my age often believe that tobacco or other drugs help you forget everything, and numb your emotions. They’re constantly looking for outlets and are crying for help through their actions. I just wish more of them had trusted people in their lives so that they could find healthy coping mechanisms instead of ones that alter your brain like tobacco. Tobacco is especially harmful because we’re not even fully developed mentally and because it damages our lungs.
Taking a step by joining a lawsuit is one way to show young people that you are concerned for their physical and mental health. As part of the Shorewood FACT Leadership team, I am working to see that FACT continues to educate Shorewood School District students and the broader community that will help to stop tobacco companies from targeting teens with their harmful products. Visit FACTmovement.org to learn more about the work of FACT groups throughout the state and parents can visit TobaccoisChanging.org to learn more about the next generation of deadly tobacco products.