SIMCOE, ON, AUG. 1, 2008 – Baseball tournaments taking place in Oneida and Hagersville on Saturday, Aug. 9, will contain a tobacco-free message for the young athletes.
Fresh Heir, a youth-led group from the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, is partnering with tournament organizers to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco use and how it impacts their athletic performance.
Through a variety of interactive games, challenges and displays, the teens of Fresh Heir hope to raise awareness of the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics that target youth, and to inform spectators of the benefits of a tobacco-free sports field or venue.
“We believe that being tobacco-free is another piece of the protective equipment young athletes need to maintain their health,” said Josh Daley, Youth Advisor for the Health Unit’s Smoke-Free Ontario Program.
Fresh Heir will have its display at the Oneida ball diamonds, at the corner of Hwy. 6 and 3rd Line, throughout the morning. In the afternoon the teen group will be at the Grant Kett Park diamonds in Hagersville.
“We encourage kids and families to be physically active to remain healthy, and baseball is a great way to do that,” said Kristen Rattray, Peer Leader with Fresh Heir. “The unfortunate part is that many times kids are also being exposed to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke while at the ball park.”
When exercising, users of tobacco products have an increased heart rate, suffer shortness of breath, have reduced endurance, are slower to react and have poorer visual judgment. Second-hand smoke is also harmful to spectators and siblings on the sidelines.
“If young players see older players smoking or chewing tobacco at the games, they are more likely to be influenced to try it themselves, since many kids look up to the older players, “ said Austin Munday, another Fresh Heir Peer Leader. “With 90% of tobacco users beginning before the age of 20, the youth demographic is vital to the tobacco industry. At Fresh Heir we’re trying to protect our peers from becoming addicted to these lethal products.”
Eventually, the group hopes to advocate for tobacco-free sports policies that would protect the health of young athletes and community members who visit sports and recreational facilities.
“The 2008 Olympic Games in China, as well as the 2010 Vancouver Games, have been declared tobacco-free – an international recognition that sports should be tobacco free,” noted Fresh Heir member Mandala Mitton. “We think it makes sense for our communities to follow suit and keep our healthy places healthy.”
Similar tobacco-free sports tournaments are occurring throughout Ontario. Participating regions include Haldimand, Norfolk, Brant, Hamilton, Halton, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.
“Youth in these regions are all working to make sports tobacco-free across central-west Ontario,” Daley noted.
Smoke-Free Ontario Program
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3276