By Summer McCann
BYU athletes are visiting local elementary schools in an effort to prevent teen smoking in Utah County.
Student athletes from various sports teams volunteer to participate in a program that was developed by BYU, Intermountain Health Care, and the Utah County Department of Health, said Jimmy Benally, assistant director of the student athlete center.
“The Buff Don”t Puff” is the slogan athletes from BYU promote as they visit fourth grade classes in Alpine, Nebo and Provo school districts.
“By educating students about the effects of smoking at a young age, we hope to prevent them from starting to smoke in the first place,” said Holly Lane, health programs coordinator for Intermountain Health Care.
Athletes visit school classrooms with an anti-smoking message and video narrated by Steve Young, Lane said.
“It is amazing how much energy and enthusiasm the kids have when we visit their classes,” said Mike Weingarten, a member of the baseball team who has participated in the program on two different occasions.
The teachers really prepare them for the message, and they are all eager to participate, said Weingarten, 23, a junior from Orem majoring in sociology.
The athletes tell the kids that if the athletes had started smoking they wouldn”t be as healthy or have the energy they need to succeed in sports, Lane said.
This is a great way to deliver the anti-smoking message, Benally said.
“The kids really look up to the athletes as role models,” he said.
After the presentation, students sign a poster pledging to never start smoking, Lane said.
The posters are displayed in the classrooms to remind the kids of their commitment, she said.
“I think we definitely had an impact on the kids. They all seemed really excited and receptive to what we had to say,” said Kevin Bills, a member of the baseball team who recently participated in the program.
“We role-played with the students, and helped teach them what they should say if they are ever in a situation to start smoking,” said Bills, a 21-year old sophomore from Reno, Nev.
Teen smoking is a big problem in Utah County as well as the United States, Lane said.
“Smoking prevention is our main goal with this program,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average teen smoker begins using tobacco products at age 13 and becomes a daily smoker by 14.
Elementary school teachers contact BYU requesting the athletes to come to their classrooms with the demonstration, Benally said.
“Since the beginning of this semester, we have taken “The Buff Don”t Puff” message to 24 different elementary schools,” he said.
The program is not only great for the schools, but it also gives athletes a chance to be involved in community service, Weingarten said.
This is the fourth year BYU athletes have participated in the program.