We recently talked with Slim Laden of SMART, a Swedish non-profit organization that works to prevent youth smoking and drug use.
Slim was visiting New York on his way to Washington, DC to present at a conference on tobacco-free active living and healthy eating in low socioeconomic status communities. He learned of the Coalition on Twitter (through our Flat Phil Project).
The main goal of SMART’s work is to prevent or delay smoking initiation among youth. Compared to those teens who never smoked, 12- to 17-year olds who smoke are more than five times likelier to drink and 13 times likelier to use marijuana. SMART believes that preventing kids from smoking and encouraging them to make healthy choices also helps to reduce alcohol and drug abuse.
SMART develops educational programs for teens that focus on changing behaviors. With parental involvement, teenagers are encouraged to make healthy and smart choices—not to smoke and/or drink alcohol. Youth are invited to take-a-pledge and sign a contract to become members of a “Smart Club”. The pledge is renewed annually and must be approved—and the contract co-signed—by a parent. This model encourages parents to talk with their children about the choices they make and help to influence their decisions. The choice to join the Smart Club must be a conscious one, made at home with supportive parents.
Once teens sign the contract and join the club, they get a membership card with their picture that gives them a sense of community and access to Smart Club events and discounts. Currently, SMART has 40,000 members in Sweden.
SMART has now initiated an international network for all people, schools and communities who work with the contract concept to prevent youth smoking. The contract concept has spread and has so far reached Finland, Norway, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Denmark and India. The network helps to support clubs or teams in other parts of the world. Members share their experiences and offer support to those who are struggling or not honoring their pledge.
For more information, please visit SMART’s website.