Janesville teen snuffs out tobacco use through prevention efforts
JANESVILLE Carly Kjornes is passionate about tobacco prevention.
That’s why she joined Youth2Youth of Rock County six years ago after attending a youth tobacco prevention program at her school and learned about the health risks associated with smoking.
“It made me very sad,” she said. “I wanted to join so I could help other kids and my dad quit smoking.”
Through the years, Carly has presented Fighting Against Corporate Tobacco programs to thousands of elementary and middle school students.
“The kids listen to us talk and are a lot more attentive than when listening to an adult,” she said.
Carly has been active with Youth2Youth since 2006 and in January was among three Rock County teens selected to serve on the Wisconsin FACT Youth Board of Directors. Diviniti Pulliam and Maria Fernanda Acevedo, both freshmen at Beloit Memorial High School, also were picked to serve on the statewide board.
“I was very surprised,” she said.
FACT is part of the Department of Health Services statewide tobacco prevention efforts and is coordinated locally by Southwest Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, a program of Family Services of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.
Carly, 18, will recruit new FACT members, implement activities and meet with local elected officials between now and June.
Earlier this week, she used candy-colored wrapping paper to cover a television in the senior hallway at Craig High School, where she attends. It was part of her public education campaign to expose how the tobacco industry uses colorful packaging and candy flavoring to sell its tobacco products in Rock County.
“The point of this FACTavism is to display tobacco’s manipulative lies. Their products are appealing and tempting to a teen’s eye,” she said.
That’s why Carly also placed a sticker reading “CANDY CAMOFLAUGE” on top of the wrapping paper.
Carly said she enjoys working with others board members who share her passion of advocating for teens not to smoke, use drugs or drink, even though she knows she’s been ridiculed for doing so.
“Usually, I’m so bold in my opinion that a lot of times people don’t bring the subject up because they know how I feel. Other times, I shrug it off because they’re making fun of me because I’m not making a stupid decision,” she said.
Carly is proud of her efforts in the fight against tobacco and cited good-news statistics.
“Tobacco use among teens dropped from 19 percent in 2010 to 17.7 percent in 2011,” in Wisconsin, she said.
She remembers her middle school years, when she was new to Youth2Youth. Members were trying to convince legislators that businesses in Wisconsin should be smoke free.
Now they are.
“So the hard work is paying off,” she said. “I know I’m making a difference.”