I have to admit, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut by Mike Tyson. It hurts my pride, but more importantly it hurts some people I care about. Who? The kids of South Carolina – including my 11 year-old-daughter.
Some of you know that we helped create Rage Against the Haze, the youth led anti-smoking movement for South Carolina. RAGE has been on life support for the last two years because of zero funding from the state legislators and budget cuts for DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control). What hit me in the gut like a Tyson right hook was this editorial from the State newspaper. The paper is on our side – the side of the youth, but we don’t have a voice with the legislators of this state.
But there are voices that are heard. And they did some really cool buzz marketing in a West Columbia bar. Yep, they hired a few young women to wear short skirts and tank tops with the words ‘Axe the Tax’ scrawled across their chest in red. I forgot to mention this was a petition drive funded by a major tobacco company to stomp out the proposed tobacco tax increase. They threw in free pens, cigarettes and beer to help collect names that they presented to lawmakers.
We live in a hypocritical state. The RAGE kids do some pretty crazy things, but they would never be allowed to do something like this, and maybe that’s the way it should be. I’m so proud of the 1500 member strong RAGE. The thing about them is that it’s more than an anti-tobacco movement… it gives our youth hope. And they need it.
I’ll leave you with this, Brains on Fire was blessed with some pretty smart SC teens riding in the drivers seat with us when we created RAGE. Most of them are now in college and stayed in-state. RAGE success stories are about Quentin: he joined in the ninth grade and by the eleventh grade he decided he wanted a chance in politics so he could make a difference. He stopped playing sports to focus on studies. He went to Howard last weekend to attempt to make a tuff decision between staying in-state and going to Furman, or be drawn to DC and Howard.
What gives me hope is that Quentin decided Furman is the place for him. We need the Quentin’s to stay in our state, Q thinks he can make a difference. Take a cue here, legislators: invest in our youth. You can make a difference too.