Starting high school is exciting, but it can also be a stressful time for students. The transition from 8th to 9th grade means a new school, new teachers, and new classmates, not to mention a more rigorous curriculum meant to get them ready to succeed in college and career.

Now, a new tobacco tax being proposed by Mayor Emanuel could help all CPS freshmen get their high school careers off to a stronger start. If approved by the Chicago City Council, this tax on smokeless tobacco will generate nearly $6 million in revenue to fund the District’s two-pronged Freshman Connection Initiative.

Slated to begin next school year, this effort will include a week-long summer orientation program for every District-run high school, giving 9th-graders a chance to get the lay of the land and develop good study habits before the first day of freshman year. It will also provide targeted outreach to those CPS 8th-graders who are at greatest risk for dropping out of school. Interventions in Math and Literacy will help these students catch up academically during the summer, while added social-emotional supports will increase their chances for success in 8th-grade and beyond.

Additionally, this new tax will help keep CPS students tobacco-free. Because cigarettes have become so expensive, many teens have switched to cigars, chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products. Raising the cost of these – and other options – can help prevent students from developing dangerously addictive habits that could have negative effects on both their learning and their health.

Mayor Emanuel will ask the City Council to approve the new tobacco tax later this month. Check back here for news on that announcement, and to find out how CPS plans to roll out these exciting new programs in summer 2016. In the meantime, find out more about Freshman Connection and the City’s new smokeless tobacco tax here.