Champaign-Urbana Public Health District

REALITY

REALITY Illinois is a statewide teen advocacy program that focuses on tobacco and e-cigarette policy change. The program utilizes a curriculum called Engaging Youth for Positive Change, which aims to empower teens to get involved in local government and advocate for causes they care about.

CUPHD has been facilitating REALITY Illinois in area middle and high schools since the 2014-2015 school year.

2015 – JW Eater Junior High School 8th graders presented for the Rantoul Park District board and passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking within 50 feet of playgrounds in Rantoul.

2016 – JW Eater National Honor Society students created tobacco counter-marketing ads to distribute for display in local businesses.

2017 – JW Eater NHS students presented to the Rantoul Village Board advocating to raise the sales age of tobacco to 21.

2018 – Centennial High School’s senior government class advocated for an e-cigarette ordinance at a Champaign City Council meeting (photo below).

In 2019, Centennial High School seniors will work on strengthening their school’s tobacco code to address the rise in teen e-cigarette use.

Reality smoking prevention

For more information about the Engaging Youth for Positive Change curriculum and our 2018 REALITY group, watch this promotional video:

School Tobacco Use Codes

According to the United States Surgeon General e-cigarette products are now the most commonly used tobacco form among youth in the United States.1 These products contain nicotine which can be addicting and can harm the developing adolescent brain. Therefore, it is extremely important that schools have a tobacco use code in place where enforcement of the policy includes educational and behavioral components. Research has shown that punitive measures can contribute to negative educational and life outcomes and do not help the student to quit using the product.2

Tobacco product use among high school students
CDC3

Recommendations for schools

  • Enforcing tobacco policy violations with punitive measures such as detention or suspension are not helpful to the student. Instead we want to promote alternative educational & behavioral measures for enforcement. Nicotine found in tobacco products is addicting so it is important that instead of punishing students, we help educate them and provide them with available cessation resources.
  • The CDC has stated the most effective approach for helping youth quit tobacco are counseling and education.4
  • The Public Health Law Center has a model policy for schools that can serve as a guide (this is specific to Minnesota, but can be modified for local school districts)6
  • The American Lung Association has two programs that we recommend schools utilize:
    • INDEPTH : Free, educational program available to schools or other community organizations. It is intended to serve as an alternative to punitive measures.
    • N-O-T (Not on Tobacco) : Evidence-based teen smoking and vaping cessation program.
American Lung Association

Sources:
1. urgeon General’s Report on E-cigarette Use Among Youth & Young Adults
2. Public Health Law Center: Addressing Student Commercial Tobacco Use in Schools: Alternative Measures
3. CDC's Youth Tobacco Use Infographics
4. How to Help Adolescents Quit Smoking
5. Public Health Law Center's Commercial Tobacco-Free K-12 School Model Policy