Area youths make anti-tobacco radio spots to spread awareness

Friday, May 31, 2002

JACKSON, Mo. -- Twelve Jackson High School students spent the past year trying to give smoking a bad name.

Members of the Jackson Youth Coalition, who call themselves STATIC, recorded four minute-long anti-tobacco radio spots for airing on MIX 104.7. The Scott City Youth Coalition, a similar group, also was involved in producing the radio broadcasts.

The student-produced spots will be broadcast eight times today during World No-Tobacco Day. The event sponsored by the World Health Organization is held to make people more aware of the impact tobacco has on public health. The theme this year is "Tobacco Free Sports: Play It Clean!," which promotes physical activity as an alternative to smoking.

STATIC is one of a number of similar youth groups in Southeast Missouri sponsored by the non-profit Tobacco Free Missouri, an organization funded by the Centers for Disease Control.

In one of the student radio spots, two boys talk about a girlfriend whose kisses taste like cigarettes. One of the students, sophomore Tyler McNeely, says he has never had that experience.

"I don't date girls who smoke," he said.

According to a 2001 study, 28.5 percent of high school students in the U.S. smoke cigarettes, down from 36.4 percent in 1997 and 34.8 percent in 1999. Smoking is defined as having one or more cigarettes in the 30 days before the survey was conducted.

Secondhand smoke risk

Reducing exposure to second-hand smoke will be the group's target issue during the coming school year, says Carolyn Hughes, the region's West Plains, Mo.-based coordinator of Tobacco Free Missouri.

According to the National Institutes of Health, environmental tobacco smoke causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers and an estimated 72,000 deaths annually from coronary heart disease.

Hallie Fieser, another Jackson sophomore who belongs to STATIC, said the number of deaths attributable to cigarettes was the most important thing she has learned from her involvement.

"They kill more people than AIDS, all kinds of natural disasters and crimes combined," she said.

Her mother, Mary Jane, is a teacher at Immaculate Conception School and the advisor to STATIC, which meets monthly during the school year. Hallie's father is Dan Fieser.

Another STATIC project is a listing of smoke-free restaurants and businesses in the area. Those include 10 McDonald's restaurants, all three Dairy Queens in Cape Girardeau and Jackson and all three Burger Kings in Cape Girardeau and Jackson. The directory can be viewed at the organization's Web site, www.breatheeasymo.org.

McNeely, the son of Cathy and Scott McNeely, has gone to businesses to request that they go smoke-free.

Some have done so, and some say their customers would not like it. "There are a lot of people getting hurt out there by second-hand smoke," NcNeely said.

Missouri has the third-highest rate of adult smoking in the U.S. "The awareness has not been here," Hughes said.

She points to California as a state that is leading the way in attacking the health costs of tobacco use.

"You almost can't walk in the street in California with a cigarette in your hand," she said.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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