Since 2000, Iowa teens have had an active role in changing the general social attitude toward tobacco use. When the Iowa Legislature created the Division of Tobacco use Prevention and Control within the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), they stressed the importance of youth involvement in reducing tobacco use among young people. They suggested the best way to do this was to hold an annual youth summit on tobacco. The first youth summit was held July 2000. Almost two decades later, the youth tobacco prevention program continues to host an annual summit, and has become so much more.
Iowa Students for Tobacco Education and Prevention (ISTEP) was created in 2011 and brought in a new wave of youth for tobacco use prevention and control. ISTEP held its first youth Summit in 2012, and is continuing to grow to this day.
But, Why Youth Tobacco Prevention?
Youth are a target when it comes to tobacco use. There are tobacco industry documents that discuss targeting youth with their advertising. These are the same tobacco companies that for years claimed they do not market to youth.
The tobacco companies insisted that nicotine was not addictive and that secondhand smoke was not harmful. After further research, we know nicotine has been found even more addictive than heroin and secondhand smoke can cause cancer, respiratory illnesses and many other health complications.
ISTEP members have seen the devastating effects of tobacco and nicotine use as we have lost those we love to tobacco. In turn, we’ve become educated on the true unfiltered facts about tobacco. It’s up to us to stay informed about new forms of tobacco and nicotine products, like electronic smoking devices (ESDs), hookahs, etc., so we can make informed decisions ourselves and share these facts with our classmates, community leaders and loved ones through everyday conversations, street marketing events and our annual summit.