More and more youth in Maine have never tried a cigarette and say they do not think they will be smoking in 5 years. In fact, when it comes to prevention, our state leads the nation: Maine has been ranked first in the nation in funding tobacco prevention programs, and it is one of only three states to meet federal CDC-recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention. These efforts have reaped huge rewards in terms of saving lives and saving money. We must continue to fight the stronghold that tobacco has on our youth through prevention in our athletic and recreational programs.
The Tobacco-Free Athletes (TFA) Initiative was created to promote and support tobacco-free living for youth participating in all recreational and public school sports programs in Maine. The program leverages a coach’s influence with players to counter the messages that the tobacco industry aims at young people.
The initiative collaborates with the United Soccer Federation of Maine, the head coach at the University of Maine at Machias, the 28 Healthy Maine Partnership Community/School programs, and more recently with The Maine Center for Coaching Education at the University of Maine. The initiative is endorsed by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Wellness and the Maine Principals’ Association.
Part of the TFA Initiative includes the Tobacco-Free Athletes Coach’s Manual, which provides coaches of all youth sports with information and support for talking to their players about the dangers of tobacco use and the importance of tobacco-free living. It provides coaches with talking points when discussing the health effects of tobacco use, information about secondhand smoke and asthma, and why spit tobacco isn’t a healthy alternative to smoking.
Check with your school to see if they have adopted TFA.
Next to a parent, a coach is one of the most influential people in a young person’s life. Community recreation policies that send strong, clear and consistent tobacco-free messages are an important part of preventing youth from starting to use tobacco.
The Tobacco-Free Community Recreation Initiative provides tools to community recreation departments and other community youth programs that help them to develop policies that promote tobacco-free environments for youth who use their facilities and are involved in their various programs. Together, staff and health advocates have developed comprehensive tobacco-free policies for local recreation programs to fight the tobacco-use messages that youth are bombarded with every day.
Talk with your community about adopting the Tobacco-Free Community Recreation program. Visit our Communities page for more information.
Are you an educator? Find out more by visiting our Educators page.