Everyday, nearly 4,000 young people under the age of 18 try their first cigarette. More than 6.4 million children living today will die prematurely because of a decision they make as adolescents-the decision to smoke cigarettes. It is our position that the nicotine in tobacco products is habit forming and constitutes as a “gateway drug.” For these reasons the ACHIEVE drug awareness campaign came into existence.
On July 20, 2003, ACHIEVE was launched and the residents of Baltimore County were very receptive. ACHIEVE is a drug awareness campaign uniting the faith-based community, Baltimore County government, private business sector, and concerned citizens in sending a positive message to at-risk youth. Our goal is to motivate young people to transcend the negative impact of tobacco and drugs in the community through education, visual, practical, and personal reminders to ACHIEVE.
Inclusive of a secondhand smoke component, ACHIEVE believes that Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar, and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. It is involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers, lingers in the air hours after cigarettes have been extinguished and can cause or exacerbate a wide range of adverse health effects, including cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma. Secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year, and causes 1,900 to 2,700 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in the United States annually. Secondhand smoke exposure may cause buildup of fluid in the middle ear, resulting in 700,000 to 1.6 million physician office visits per year. Secondhand smoke can also aggravate symptoms in 400,000 to 1,000,000 children with asthma. In the United States, 21 million, or 35 percent of, children live in homes where residents or visitors smoke in the home on a regular basis. Approximately 50-75 percent of children in the United States have detectable levels of coniine, the breakdown product of nicotine in the blood. The facts show 47,000 African Americans die each year from smoking-related diseases. Seventy-two percent of African Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke, compared to 50 percent of whites, and 45 percent of Mexican Americans.
It is our belief that the environment that perpetuates secondhand smoke indoctrinates our youth toward unhealthy and potential deadly lifestyles. Impressionable youth will often look to adult figures, movie stars, and celebrities, to develop erroneous images of acceptance. From this premise the Shiloh Baptist Church ACHIEVE program purposes to increase the capacity and infrastructure of the “ACHIEVE” initiative by providing secondhand smoke education and awareness to the residents of Baltimore County. The targeted priority populations are our at risk African American youth and youth including on college bound, but college-aged youth.
Our past experiences have been noteworthy. ACHIEVE is a Drug Awareness Campaign that was launched in Baltimore County inclusive of a tobacco component with no outside sources of funding. On July 20, 2003, Bishop Heber M. Brown, Jr. hosted a countywide meeting of county executives, officials, and faith-based organizations to introduce a drug awareness program that would impact Baltimore County residents. Among the distinguished guests were Senator Norman R. Stone (see letter of support), Ryan Coleman- Representatives from Dutch Ruppersberger, Councilman John Olszewski (see letter of support), Dr. Michelle Leverett-Health Officer, Major Mike McCleese-Baltimore County Police, Winnie Carpenter- Substance Abuse, Nick D’Alesandro-Dept of Social Services Baltimore County Police & Fire Department, Department of Safe School Programs, The Dundalk Eagle, Afro American Newspapr, and approximately 50 pastors were in attendance. The presentation went extremely well and many of the attendees agreed to be a resource for future advancement. ACHIEVE was launched and the residents of Baltimore County were very receptive.
ACHIEVE is a former grant recipient from the Baltimore County Department of Health in 2004. In 2005, ACHIEVE campaign was the recipient of yet another grant from the American Lung Association of Maryland Community Grant Fund. Through great partnership and relationships like these, ACHIEVE has been able to aid in the reduction and elimination disparities in tobacco use. Through the (ALAM) Grant 2005, we proudly and successfully were able to survey 500 African American Youth, hold a Live Long Live Strong, Don’t Smoke workshop, have 10 churches participate in “Survey Sunday,” launch a billboard campaign, walk in the Turners Station Parade, and hold our ASHtravagnza Health Fair. Through technical assistance provided to the ACHIEVE project by ALAM, Athena Deane Shiloh Baptist Church project’s coordinator, received a scholarship to attend the National Conference on Tobacco and Health in Chicago. Our staff was trained in the Freedom From Smoking Program and became a great resource for Baltimore County Health Department’s development of their faith-based tobacco prevention initiative. These events enabled us to reach hundreds of African American youth as well as offer Free Freedom From Smoking Classes here at Project Genesis New Beginnings, Inc. a non-profit entity of the Shiloh Baptist Church.