FORT WAYNE – With the help of a state grant, the Fort Wayne Urban League plans to form a youth group to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.
The group will be a local chapter of VOICE, a statewide organization that trains students in sixth through 12th grade to teach others about the effects of smoking.
Its really about youth leadership development, said Jamie Garwood, the Urban Leagues director of programming. Its about teaching young people that, you know, they are the target market of tobacco marketing.
After learning about tobacco, VOICE members will visit schools and youth clubs to share their knowledge, Garwood said.
She said VOICE members will also work with the managers of apartment complexes near the Urban Leagues offices, such as Eden Green and Chapel Oaks, to try to enact smoking bans.
We want to identify young people in those complexes to participate in VOICE so that they are advocates within those complexes, she said, noting that the Fort Wayne Housing Authority already bans smoking in its facilities.
The VOICE chapter will be part of a larger effort by the Urban League and Tobacco Free Allen County, an anti-smoking advocacy group, to reduce the number of young smokers, the number of people affected by secondhand smoke and the number of pregnant women who smoke.
To fund the effort, the Urban League will receive $80,000 over two years from the Indiana Department of Health. The money comes from tobacco company settlements and taxes on tobacco products.
VOICE will have its first meeting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Urban Leagues offices at South Hanna Street and East Creighton Avenue. Free breakfast will be served. For more information, call the Urban League at 745-3100.
The Urban League is a nonprofit organization that aims to enable urban residents and others to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights, according to its mission statement.