High school students from districts throughout Allegany County filled the Genesee Valley Central School auditorium today to participate in the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Conference. The event was to commemorate National Red Ribbon Week, a national celebration promoting the importance for students to live drug-, tobacco- and alcohol-free lives. This year’s theme: “Celebrate Life. Live Drug Free.”
Dr. Richard O’Connor, Professor of Oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, was the keynote speaker. He talked to the students about his research, which focuses on how using cigarettes and vaping can impact health.
The 2021 Risk and Protective Survey that was completed by students in Allegany County reported that 26.1% of high schoolers vape, which is higher than the New York state average of 22.5% for high schoolers. One reason for the higher rate could be easier access to flavored vapes compared to the rest of the state.
In addition to the science behind tobacco use, New York State Trooper O’Callaghan explained new laws about driving while impaired and how police officers determine impairment. Trooper O’Callaghan also went over the increase of arrests from impaired driving from drugs so far in 2022 compared to previous years. Local and national surveys have not shown a large increase in cannabis use for young people but has shown that young people’s perception of harm from cannabis use has decreased continually. It is thought that as states legalize cannabis, it gives young people the idea it is safe to use.
To wrap up the half-day conference, students got their creative juices flowing with a pumpkin carving activity with Eric Jones, who just won the Food Network’s “Outrageous Pumpkins.” Event sponsors wanted the youth to take away the idea that fun, positive, family activities like Halloween decorating, are a healthier alternative to drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Eric ended the event by telling the students, “You can be successful at whatever you are passionate about, but you have to work hard for it.” Follow Eric on Facebook and Instagram for updates on what he is currently carving.
The SADD Conference was a partnership between the Allegany County Stop DWI Program, the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc., Partners for Prevention in Allegany County, and Tobacco Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany.