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Students earn national tobacco prevention awards

UMW News Bureau

The work of several University of Montana Western students recently brought home two national tobacco prevention awards as part of the Bacchus Network's Montana Collegiate Tobacco Prevention Initiative. By Kaitlin Ens [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="From left, Brett Christian, Renae Counter, Matt Matich, and Bacchus Network President and CEO Drew Hunter."]PP Award pic[/caption] The work of several University of Montana Western students recently brought home two national tobacco prevention awards as part of the Bacchus Network's Montana Collegiate Tobacco Prevention Initiative. The Bacchus Network is a non-profit national organization promoting health and safety initiatives on campuses and in communities. Montana Western is one of 10 college campuses participating in the initiative, which strives to promote safe environments and reduce tobacco use. Montana Western’s Brett Christian was named the 2010 Outstanding Peer Educator of the Year. Christian and fellow UMW students Anthony Harris, Elida Craven, Renae Counter and Matt Matich also won Outstanding Tobacco Prevention Program of the Year for their PowerPoint program, “Tobacco: Its Impact on Health, Environment, the Economy and Social Injustice.” The group built their program off of work previously done by UMW students Austin Lord, Kirstin Morasko, Kyla Rasmussen, Kayla Grossman, and Amanda Hagerty, and Brett Christian in 2009 and 2010. Christian’s advocacy for tobacco prevention and awareness is due to his own personal experience. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Brett Christian receives his award from Bacchus Network President and CEO Drew Hunter."]Brett award pic[/caption] “My passion for tobacco prevention started because of my dad’s tobacco use,” Christian explained. “He started smoking in college just as so many other tobacco users have. After smoking for 20 years he quit after a number of attempts. He suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and only has the use of 30 percent of his lungs as well as asthma and other related illnesses. My wish in continuing tobacco prevention is for no other son or daughter, granddaughter or grandson to see their mom, dad, grandma or grandpa suffer through any kind of tobacco related disease.” Christian said the group made the PowerPoint presentation to show a more diverse and broad range of topics not often discussed about tobacco. “We created this presentation to be an interactive and dynamic program to address all issues related to tobacco use,” Christian stated. “I feel that our program really stood apart from others because we do go into so much detail and cover so many topics, even one’s that are really not talked about or well known.” Christian said both of these awards show the commitment and desire the task force and campus have for advocating student and environmental health. Lynn Weltzien, the UMW Tobacco Free Task Force advisor, describes Christian as a dedicated and motivated student leader. “Congenial and empathic, he sets his peers at ease while informing them on the topic,” Weltzien said. “Brett has never shied away from an opportunity to speak up whether at challenging forums with peers in opposition to tobacco policy change or in the face of skeptical student senators. Brett’s commitment to educating our campus fully embodies the philosophy of empowering students to positively influence their peers.” Christian intends to continue his work raising awareness in the future. With only a few classes left before graduation, he will soon be moving on to different venues. “Because of my interest in public health I plan on continuing my education by attending law school for public health law,” Christian added. “I then hope to continue educating the public about the harms of tobacco use as well as the social justice issues that underlay the whole problem.”

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