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April 15, 2004

Governor expands REALITY Illinois to help curb teen smoking
Money will lead to more teen-to-teen anti-tobacco outreach

SPRINGFIELD, – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, today, along with the Illinois Department of Public Health, announced the awarding of grants totaling $92,000 to 10 local health departments and an education center to support the establishment of new chapters of a youth-driven anti-tobacco campaign. 
The statewide program, REALITY Illinois, encourages teens to take a stand against tobacco use by educating their peers and communities about the adverse health effects and deceptive marketing practices of tobacco companies.   The teens also work to make their communities tobacco-free and communicate with decisions makers on issues related to tobacco prevention and control.
“Thousands of underage teens become addicted to smoking each and every year.  This money helps kids who know about the dangers of tobacco reach out to their peers and communicate that message, not as an adult, but as a trusted friend,” said Blagojevich.
“REALITY Illinois is out to change the attitudes of teenagers about tobacco, which we know to be powerfully addictive and a deadly substance,” Dr. Eric Whitaker, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health said.  “Many teens start smoking because they think it’s cool and are either not aware of or concerned about the health effects.  By educating teens and others, we hope to dissuade them from starting to smoke and get current young smokers to quit.”
It is estimated that more than 60,000 Illinois kids under the age of 18 become new daily smokers each year and a third of those young people are destined to become regular smokers who will eventually die as a result.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the nation and is known to cause chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease and stroke, as well as cancer of the lung, larynx, esophagus, mouth and bladder.
The grant money comes from an agreement signed in 1998 with tobacco companies to settle the state’s Medicaid lawsuit to recover tobacco-related disease and treatment costs.
Following is a list of grant recipients and the amounts they received:
·                     Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, $8,000
·                     Chicago Department of Public Health, $18,000
·                     Hult Health Education Center, Peoria, $8,000
·                     Jefferson County Health Department, $8,000
·                     Lake County Health Department, $8,000
·                     Logan County Health Department, $8,000
·                     McHenry County Health Department, $8,000
·                     Sangamon County Health Department, $5,000
·                     Springfield Department of Public Health, $5,000
·                     Wayne County Health Department, $8,000
·                     Winnebago County Health Department, $8,000
The REALITY Illinois program was launched in the summer of 2002.  Local chapters form a teen advisory panel to plan activities and events that range from conducting peer-to-peer tobacco prevention education to membership recruitment and advocacy projects.
More than 16,000 teens from across the state have signed up to become members of REALITY Illinois.  Additional information about REALITY Illinois can be found on the Web at www.realityillinois.com.


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