Of the Baker City Herald

Today I learned that if you kiss a man that smokes, then it is like kissing an ash tray, said eight- year-old Chelse Bulthuis. And if somebody asks me if I want to smoke, Ill say No way, Jose! and Ill never smoke because it will make the room smelly, and I wont like it.

Chelse is one of 40 girls, ages 5 to 15, who were able to earn patches if they studied tobacco facts at the Girl Scouts Against Smoking day camp near Pine Creek Wednesday.

Currently tobacco use is on the rise in young girls; last year they passed young boys in their tobacco use, said Lori McNeil, the new Tobacco Prevention and Education Coordinator for Baker County.

At the day camp, McNeil explained the effects of tobacco on the body and presented other tobacco related facts.

I learned that smoking one cigarette takes 14 seconds away from you life, said Meranda Aleo, 12, of Baker City.

Learning activities included a tobacco prevention game. First the scouts practiced breathing normally, exercised for a few minutes and then tried to breathe through straws while they plugged their noses. The activity simulated the breathing ability of a smoker with emphysema.

My favorite part of the day was learning what it feels like to breathe if I had emphysema, said ten-year-old Crystal Bulthuis. Its really hard.

McNeil also passed out Tobacco Free in the 21st Century pledge cards. As a group, the scouts made a verbal promise to not use tobacco.

The scouts had a number of questions.

My sister told me that half the girls on TV smoke to get skinny, is that true?

Why would people want to sell something that hurts other people?

Does smoking make you go crazy?

McNeil answered the questions one by one in order to debunk some of the myths the scouts had about tobacco use.

McNeil also led the group in creating a list of things that they would rather buy than cigarettes. The list included a European vacation, new car, bike, computer, or a college education.

Reaching 50 girls is inspirational because along with educating themselves, they will be able to set a good example for their family and friends, McNeil said.

McNeil said she conducted a survey at the recent St. Elizabeth Health Fair to evaluate the needs of the Baker City community. Her survey showed the community has recognized a problem with tobacco and youth.

Its not just me coming in and expressing an opinion, it is a reaction to the communitys observations, McNeil said. Im listening to the public and trying to develop programs that fit the community.

The Girl Scouts earned a mini-grant of $535 to learn about tobacco. May OMalley, membership specialist with the Girl Scouts of the Silver Sage Council, said along with buying tobacco education related books and badges the girls will use the grant money to replace their old wooden flag pole with a new one made of metal.

It will be a symbol of their decision not to smoke and a reminder to do other things besides use tobacco, OMalley said. This is a good program for the Girl Scouts because 12 to 20 is the age where they have to be reached. Waiting until they get to high school is too long.

OMalley said she would like to see the tobacco prevention program take place again next year.

What is Camp Elkhorn?

The scouts had been at camp during the day on Monday and Tuesday and were hoping to spend the night Wednesday. The cost of the camp was $18 for each girl.

Along with the tobacco prevention activities, the scouts had participated in programs related to wildflowers, photography and frame making.

OMalley said the Girl Scouts have been active in the Baker City area for 30 years, and in the last two years the participation in the camp has more than doubled.

The goal of the camp is to create an awareness of the outdoors and how to use resources wisely. It is also a chance for the girls to learn together in a fun environment, OMalley said.

The next event for the group is an orienteering program which is open to Girl Scouts and girls from the community. The event is planned for Sept.

McNeil encouraged other groups to apply for mini-grants.

The grants could have a great impact on the community. Education is the biggest key in preventing tobacco use, she said.

McNeil is currently revising the grant application so that interested groups know the grant money is specifically for tobacco prevention materials.

Other groups interested in applying for a mini-grant can contact Lori McNeil at 524-2135, or stop by 1995 Third St. to pick up an application.

Those interested in becoming a Girl Scout can contact May OMalley at (541) 663-0209 or Sylvia Bowers at 523-8081.