Students advocate for change
Students from Prairie Central High School appeared before the Forrest Village Board Monday evening urging members to restrict the use of nicotine products to designated areas.
Morgan Farris and Lexi Schilling are part of the Prairie Central High School health advocacy group known as “Taking Down Tobacco.” This group includes health education students and is led by instructor Scott Willi and the Livingston County Health Department marketing director, Erin Fogarty.
Schilling noted cigarette smoking is responsible for many deaths each year, according to the CDC.
“Another nicotine product that can be dangerous or addictive is vaping,” Schilling explained.
These habits can also pose a danger to others in the vicinity via what is known as second-hand smoke. The students also said cigarette butts are hard to get rid of as they are very slow to break down. In fact, they can take years to decompose.
“We have been learning that it takes a lot of support to make change happen,” said Farris.
The group has gathered signatures of local residents and received support from a number of officials, agencies, businesses, churches and teachers.
“By restricting the use of nicotine to designated areas of parks, we keep those places safe for everyone,” Schilling added.
This project is funded by the Illinois Tobacco Free Communities Grant. If the board decides to pass an ordinance, Fogarty said the health department would be happy to place receptacles in certain areas.
“We discussed as a group different ways these could be enforced and the pros and cons,” Fogarty said.
Dwight has passed an all-out ban in some parts of town and restricted areas elsewhere.
“We’ll put that in front of our lawyer and get some stuff wrote up,” stated Forrest Village President Lewis Breeden.
Taking Down Tobacco would like to see an ordinance that restricts use of all nicotine products to designated areas at Forrest’s South Park, North Park, Railroad Park and at the Dale Horine Baseball Field.
The group has been meeting weekly to learn how to engage local government and advocate for change which they feel would benefit the community.