Program promotes being drug-free

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 26, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Students at the Theo Ratliff Youth Activity Center participated in a special program to promote drug awareness as part of Red Ribbon Week Thursday.

At the guidance of Niko Phillips, tobacco prevention and control coordinator with the Alabama Department of Public Health, students were given Oreos to munch on, not just for a snack but for a specific purpose.

The students at the program were from fifth through the 10th grade, which is an age bracket where research shows most children smoke for the first time, said Loretta Smith, Teens Empowering and Motivating Peers to Opt-Out coordinator.

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The TEMPO program operates on funds from a grant from the Alabama Department of Public Health and sends a message in local schools about living a drug-free lifestyle. Smith and her associates hope to continue to provide these programs beyond Red Ribbon week and also do more research about the effects of tobacco and alcohol on children.

Smith pointed out many people assume when they smoke, they aren&8217;t endangering anyone else&8217;s health.

Mike Marshall, CEO of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, was also on hand to talk to the students about the importance of avoiding drugs. To close the program, he counted off for students to release dozens of white balloons outside the center to symbolize a clean and healthy environment.