Manitoba Trains SWAT Teams for More Schools

March 8, 2011

Manitoba is expanding the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program to more schools, Healthy Living, Youth and Seniors Minister Jim Rondeau announced today.

“In the past, we often heard about peer pressure being a factor in young people starting to smoke,” said Rondeau. “This peer-led prevention program turns that around by having older students acting as role models, positively influencing younger students to make informed decisions and helping them withstand any negative pressures they may face.”Rondeau made the announcement at a two-day leadership training session for both teacher‑champions and students to equip them with the tools and training they need to start SWAT teams in their own schools. This is the third year the province has supported the program. Ten schools are currently involved. Another seven high schools are participating in this training session.

The SWAT program began in Manitoba at West Kildonan Collegiate (WKC) in 2001. WKC continues to be a leader for the program and a model for other schools, said Rondeau. Barb Tascona, a WKC teacher, leads the training on behalf of the province.

“Seeing how engaged and passionate the students become with this project is so wonderful,” said Tascona. “The program is empowering for them ‒ it gives them a voice and the opportunity to make a difference in their schools and communities. They are also developing a variety of useful skills.”

After receiving the training, the students and their champion return to their schools to recruit and train more students for the team. They then create workshops and present them to middle-school students to educate younger students on the health risks associated with tobacco and to encourage them not to smoke. The projects are all student-led; students decide on what they want to do and how they want to do it.

“One aspect of our provincial tobacco control strategy is to de-normalize smoking,” said Rondeau. “The SWAT students have been furthering this with one of their projects, the annual Black Lung Awards, a spoof on the Academy Awards where movies are ‘honoured’ based on their portrayal of smoking. The students have actually done research into how movies influence the smoking habits of young fans and then undertaken these actions to address the problem. I commend them for all their efforts.”

Since its inception, the WKC SWAT team has been recognized with several awards including the MANTRA Award from the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance, the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba Award, the Premier’s Award and the City of Winnipeg Mayor’s Award.

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SWAT Teams

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