The Northwest Center for Behavioral Health is seeking volunteers to perform tobacco reward reminder visits for those under the age of 18, and alcohol sales compliance checks for those under 21. Volunteers will earn community service hours that can be used for honor society and scholarships. Participants must be between the ages of 16 and 20.

According to the Surgeon General, 90 percent of smokers begin before the age of 19 and every day almost 3,900 adolescents under the age of 18 try their first cigarette. More than 950 of those adolescents will become daily smokers.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the US. Studies have shown that nearly all first time use of tobacco takes place before high school graduation and that teens who smoke are more likely to have panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and depression according to dosomething.org.

Recent studies have also shown that approximately 53 percent of adults report that one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem. Those most vulnerable to problem drinking are young adults between the ages of 18 and 29, while those least susceptible are 65 years of age or older. These young adults are particularly susceptible to binge drinking (five or more drinks in two hours for men, four or more drinks in two hours for women). In 2002, U.S. alcoholism statistics showed that 2.6 million binge drinkers were between the ages of 12 and 17, according to the website caron.org.

The youth who volunteer to do the compliance checks will be working outside of their own towns.

“It wouldn't do them much good to try and buy alcohol or tobacco in a town where they'd be recognized. We cover Woods, Ellis, Woodward, Harper and the three panhandle counties in Northwest Oklahoma. The volunteers will have a police officer outside to intervene if a compliance violation is committed,” said Tandy Keenan, prevention resource development coordinator-prevention director for Northwest Center for Behavioral Health.

The volunteers will enter stores where tobacco and alcohol are sold and attempt to purchase an item they are not legally old enough to purchase.

Keenan said the purpose is to ensure that stores aren't selling tobacco and alcohol to minors.

If a volunteer is successful in purchasing an item, law enforcement steps in to take action against the person and company that has committed the illegal sale of alcohol or tobacco to a minor, which can bring fines or criminal charges, Keenan noted.

For more information contact Glenda Blosser at 580-571-3240 or Keenan at 580-571-3241.

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