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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Commentary: If You Want A Job Done Right..

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Monday, March 27, 2006

Silvio O. Conte Middle School students in Brian Keller's health class termed this anti-smoking poster as ineffective, and said they believe it could generate smoking!
The saying has been bandied about for decades: "If you want a job done right, do it yourself."

A REACH Community Health Foundation "Clear The Air" smoking prevention campaign is giving groups of North Adams students a chance to do just that through opportunities for some serious peer-to-peer mass communication. Participating middle and high school students will create a variety of media ads that discourage youth smoking. Selected ads are scheduled for public exposure via the local media.

I'm hoping that the community at large pays attention. Because the messages being delivered to the nation's youth about smoking are a mixed mish-mash of facts, fiction, and excuses that are as cloudy as a rolling fog of cigarette smoke.

Perhaps the kids can do better.

"Do As I Say, Not As I Do"

Here's a sampling of the issues surrounding youth smoking: too many kids are still lighting up. Too many parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles still smoke, and, when questioned by younger family members about why, are reacting defensively, i.e., "I don't have to answer to you," or weakly, "I know, I know, it's a bad habit and I should quit," or flippantly, "Do as I say, not as I do. I better not ever catch you with a cigarette."

Which of the above are effective anti-smoking messages? Why, the answer is "d," "none of the above."

I believe I can already hear some of you who are reading this.

"Oh, here we go, Sue found out she has a lung disease and now she's one of those reformed former smokers. She'll be on her soapbox about smoking forever. I can't stand those [former smokers, former drinkers, former drug addicts] that feel like they have to get all over the rest of us!"

If you are over age 21, and are smoking, you couldn't be more wrong. You are most definitely old enough to know better, so continue to light 'em up and puff away if you choose. Line those big tobacco company pockets. You will not hear one word from me. I am more than willing to invite you to my oxygen party. The more the merrier, I always say, although you may have to provide your own oxygen tank [portables OK] and breathing tubes.

I do have a few words for the person or persons responsible for the supposedly anti-smoking poster featured on this page.

You Can't Be Serious

Are you freaking serious with this thing?

Let's see, a large, color poster that prominently displays an attractive, slim, Britney-like blonde, blue-eyed girl wearing a "cool" top, a stylish bracelet, and holding a cigarette in a kind of teen-age rebel, devil-may-care pose, with text that arranges the words "smoking," "attractive," and "look better doing it" in a way that makes them stand out and away from the only word that identifies this as an anti-smoking ad:"If."

Give me a break!!!

And while we're on the subject, please let's not pretend that cigarette companies have stopped marketing campaigns that target youth.

Smoking: Just Another Youth Sport..NOT!!

A Winston cigarette ad featuring young, buff male surfers gripping their boards and frolicking on a beach is a draw to males and females alike, including those who are teen-agers. And phrases such as "leave the bull behind" [memo to Winston's PR firm: would ya?!] and the cleverly twisted "board meeting" are blatantly youth-oriented.

Special Marlboro cigarette prizes and promotions are offered to smokers who check a box indicating that they are age 21 or older. The prizes include some pretty extravagant trips. I am personally acquainted a young "20-something" couple that won two expense-paid trips courtesy of Marlboro.

The couple had a wonderful time on both "once in a lifetime" junkets, and if you don't believe me, just ask their kids. The children didn't travel along, but they were privy to the praise heaped on the good folks at Marlboro for knowing how to treat customers.

And is there anyone out there who doesn't understand why Big Tobacco Companies fought so hard to maintain the ability to advertise near high schools?

The Mixing Of The Message

Much is made of the "subliminal messages" hidden within cigarette advertising. Of more significance may be the messages delivered around a family kitchen table.....

Mom of Teen Youth, talking to Friend: "I just can't believe it. I found a pack of cigarettes in Bobby's room. After all we've told him about smoking, and after watching his grandma die with [cancer, emphysema, heart disease, etc.] I just can't understand why he'd even start smoking." [flicks ash into ashtray]

Friend of Mom [lighting up]: "I know, I know, in our day, we didn't know all the health risks like the kids do today. Did I ever tell you about the time I quit smoking? Oh, my God, I gained 12 pounds in two months, and that was it, I went right back to smoking!"

Mom: "Same thing happened to me. I wish I'd never started smoking. It's too hard to quit. I've tried....you know how it is. Every time I go to the doctor, I get the smoking lecture. I really should quit, I know...but look at my Aunt Edna! Lived to be 95 and smoked every day of her life! And you know, back in her day, cigarettes were all non-filtered!"

Friend: "Yeah, my grampa on my dad's side and my gram on my mom's side, same thing. But then my uncle died at 48 from lung cancer...he smoked. I guess you never know."

Bobby, age 14, listening from his bedroom and reading a IM from his older cousins, who are on a Marlboro "giveaway" trip: "My mom smokes. Her friend smokes. They say it's bad for you, but they smoke anyway. My pal Billy's dad said he doesn't want Billy to smoke, but he won't get mad about it because it's better than doing drugs. He even buys Billy his cigarettes so that nobody can get into trouble. Some people in my family died from smoking, but some people didn't. I mean, some people die in car accidents but people still drive every day, right? "

There is another popular turn-of-phrase that is steeped in truth: "Actions Speak Louder Than Words."

Let's "Clear The Air"

The reality is that smoking is an addicting, dangerously unhealthy habit. As with any addictive behavior, those addicted to smoking have lo-o-o-n-n-n-g-g-g lists of reasons and excuses involving why they cannot quit. Another of smoking's harsh realities is that many, many smokers believe that they are truly unable to stop smoking, and of those who do quit, many struggle with a powerful desire to smoke for weeks, months and in some cases, years.

It's not remotely close to a fun frolic on the beach with a surf board.

And that is why it is so very, very important to "clear the air" about smoking. The most effective way to protect one's health against the ravages of smoking is to NEVER START. Period. End of story.

And the adult arena, driven as it is by profit margins, supply, demand, big business lobbyists and other financial forces, as well as an amazing ability to excuse our personal behaviors while finding extreme fault with corporate actions, hasn't done especially well on the youth smoking front.

I bet I know who can.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

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