REACH and Tobacco-Free Living

Through the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant and partnerships with local stakeholders/organizations, we aim to establish city parks in the Hope Zone Neighborhoods as tobacco free through the installation of signage and/or adoption of city-wide policy to protect children from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Smoking in Kent County | Families for Fresh Air | Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities |Grand Rapids Urban League | Learn More

Smoking in Kent County

Smoking tobacco contributes to the development of many chronic conditions, including cancers, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular diseases, and remains the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States. It is linked to 20 different fatal illnesses and 50 non-fatal, and has a death toll over 400,000 a year in the United States. Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at an increased risk of disease or death.

Tobacco use in Kent County is an issue among African American adults, adults with lower education, and income levels.

  • 13% of Kent County residents are current smokers.
  • The percentage of young adults who smoke in Kent County is greater than the statewide average (36% vs. 23%)
  • African Americans are twice as likely to smoke as Caucasians (19.6% vs. 12.6%).
  • Smoking is more prevalent among individuals with less education and lower household incomes.

The good news is that smoking rates in Kent County have declined over the past 5 years. Proven prevention and cessation efforts are critical to continue this trend.

Sources: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) (2008), Kent County Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) Report (2014), Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MiPhY) (2012) 





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Families for Fresh Air

The Tobacco-Free Living subcommittee aims to provide the people of Kent County with tobacco-free public spaces. Currently, the TFL subcommittee is building a community that fosters tobacco-free parks, specifically Roosevelt Park in the City of Grand Rapids.

The TFL subcommittee seeks to educate the public about the benefits of tobacco-free living, and adopt a tobacco-free park in the Roosevelt neighborhood. The messages that will be put forth will be targeted at the Hispanic community in Roosevelt Park to ensure they are relevant and understandable, and behavioral change will be attempted by encouraging a culture shift to tobacco-free living. The marketing strategy will be developed using input from community members to encourage the most positive response from the Roosevelt Park residents. The "Families for Fresh Air" campaign was launched at the time of the Family Fiesta at Roosevelt Park and will be the brand to continue the work toward making Kent County parks tobacco-free.

As a direct result of the Family Fiesta and media coverage, the underutilized Roosevelt Park has been designated by the city of Grand Rapids to receive improvements. The TFL subcommittee recreated the park as a lively, youthful attraction and now has permanent soccer goals that the community utilized frequently.

Check out our Fresh Air Photobooth from Family Fiesta 2014!

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Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities

The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) group recently teamed up with trusted partner Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities (GAAH) to make new billboard content for its year 2 zone. The billboards will have messages that support tobacco free living. GAAH has youth groups that are dedicated to learning about the dangers of tobacco. They have assisted with REACH tobacco free initiatives in the past, including when the Cook Library Scholars of GAAH took part in a poster contest that focused on the risks of smoking. The winning artwork has been used by REACH in newsletters and on social media.


For the newest project, the Cook Library Scholars created two large posters. One, designed to tug on the heartstrings of parents, reads "Young Lungs @ Play," while the other uses the KCHC hashtag #KicktheHabitGR. The photoshoot was directed by professional photographer Terry Johnston, who captured several powerful shots.

Once the billboards are up, they will be seen by thousands of eyes. The messages will have a strong focus on protecting kids from exposure to secondhand smoke. You can expect to see the new billboards within a few months.  

To read more about the photoshoot and see pictures, read our blog "REACH Teams Up With Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities and Cook Library Scholars"  

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Grand Rapids Urban League

The Grand Rapids Urban League is an organization dedicated to assisting others in becoming self-sufficient and healthy, and promoting racial equality. In an effort to create healthy living opportunities, the Urban League is also working with the REACH project to create smokefree and/or tobacco free environments. To accomplish this, the Urban League has committed to using strong outreach campaigns and sharing these smokefree messages with community residents, landlords, peers, and legislators at the Capital in Lansing, MI.

The Grand Rapids Urban League Urban Fellows is a group of young leaders and advocates against tobacco. These young men share a passion for raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco, how the tobacco industry targets youth, and the benefits of living tobacco-free.

Grand Rapids Urban League Urban Fellows picking up cigarette butts in the parks.

Working together they have organized several activities for spreading awareness and creating tobacco-free environments. In the local parks, they improved the spaces by picking up cigarette litter. They have also created positive messaging campaigns on tobacco-free living that they presented to the community and their peers. After learning how to use different media tools like film editing  and sound production, the Urban Fellows produced and filmed a documentary entitled "Harms of Tobacco - I AM NOT A REPLACEMENT." It inspires youth to not become a 'replacement smoker,' a term used by the tobacco industry to describe new smokers.

Soon the Urban Fellows will be sharing guest blogs - stay tuned to hear their stories!

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Learn More

Facts and Statistics about Tobacco
Learn everything you need to know about tobacco health effects, use, and statistics throughout the United States.

What are the health effects of smoking tobacco?
Tobacco use has been shown to increase the risk of developing many types of cancer, coronary heart disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and more. Learn about each of these chronic health conditions and how they are linked to tobacco.

Why should you quit smoking?
Quitting tobacco has many benefits, but the sooner you quit the better. 

Quitting 101
Quitting isn't easy, but you can do it! By quitting, you can lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health conditions. 

The Heart of West Michigan's 2-1-1 is a free health and human service hotline that connects callers to more than 2,900 distinct services in Kent County 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

State of Tobacco Control 2016
Did your state make the grade? Find out how your state rates in access to smoking cessation services, tobacco taxes, smoking restrictions, and tobacco prevention and cessation funding.

Michigan Quitline
1.800.784.8669 English
1.855.335.3569 Spanis
Receive assistance from a trained coach who will talk with you about what you need to quit smoking. The Michigan Tobacco Quitline also offers self-help materials, a list of smoking cessation programs in your area, a text-message and online program, and more.

View our list of resources and tools to learn more about the dangers of tobacco and how to quit.

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