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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Drury Students Tackle Tough Message

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, April 01, 2006

Jake Hebert's art illustrates what big tobacco companies "feed" to consumers.
North Adams - Drury High School students enrolled in teacher Becky Cohen's health class know that they are battling an insidious, multi-million dollar advertising force with crayons, markers, paper, and glue.

They know they are facing off against big tobacco companies with even bigger budgets and tough political lobbyists, but this student group believes they are up to the challenge.

The students are among a multi-school contingent of city youth who are creating REACH Community Health Foundation "Clear the Air" campaign original anti-smoking ads that target youth and are suitable as print, radio, or television advertisements.

Students from the Charles H. McCann Technical High School and Silvio O. Conte Middle School are also campaign participants.

Staying Alive As Long As Possible


Mary Melendez and Ronin Magnussen are among the actors in a "Clear The Air" campaign anti-smoking ad. Sharon Leary filmed the video advertisement.
Drury sophomore John Langlois has an acting role in a video ad that puts a twist on peer pressure. Sophomore Ronin Magnussen wrote the ad script and acted along with students Mary Melendez, Adrian Willams, Samantha Clifford, and Amber Ronan.

"I think smoking is gross," Langlois said during a March 31 videotaping of the advertisement. "My dad, my step-dad, they are smokers, and I know a ton of people who smoke. I've seen what smoking does to people and I don't want any of it to happen to me. I want to stay alive as long as possible."

Melendez said that many of her friends are smokers.

"I just don't see the point of cigarettes," she said.

Her parents smoke but she does not, said Williams.

"I've never done it and I never will," said Adrian. "A lot of kids think it's cool now but they don't think about the future at all."

Numerous students opted to create campaign posters, and Cohen said that she expects about 70 -80 posters will be entered in the campaign competition.

How About A Big, Heaping Spoonful?

Among the entries displayed on the walls of Cohen's classroom are posters that cite facts and figures, and illustrations of mouth cancers, cataracts, and other physical diseases and conditions linked with smoking.

A poster drawn by student Jake Hebert has attracted a lot of student interest, Cohen said. The poster depicts one young woman "feeding" another a spoonful of cigarette butts and ash. The "serving" was scooped from a cigarette-filled, smoking ashtray depicted in the poster.

"Do You Know What The Tobacco Companies Are Feeding You?" is the poster's accompanying text.

Free On-Campus Help

Cohen said that she expects to launch an "End Nicotine Dependence " program over the next few weeks. The program is designed to offer support to youth who want to quit smoking or reduce their smoking habit, she said. Drury student Alicia Roberts has agreed to act as a youth advocate for the program, Cohen said.

"I'm hoping that kids will volunteer to participate," Cohen said.

Program components include distribution of "gift bags" to participating students, Cohen said. The bags will contain items to help combat cravings and smoking behaviors. Items such as rubber bands for "snapping," small straws and sugar-free candies to help ease smoking urges, and small toys similar to the "Slinky" to help keep hands occupied are expected to be part of the smoking urge rescue kits.

Educational reading material


Students caught smoking on school grounds three or more times during a school year will be required to attend the program, Cohen said.

Currently, four students have asked to participate voluntarily and three students are expected to be mandatory participants, she said.

Program classes are scheduled to be held twice weekly as 45-minute sessions over a four-week span. Cohen said she hopes the mere presence of the program -which is expected to be in place during the fall and spring of the 2006-07 school year as well- will prevent students from smoking, or at least prevent them from smoking on school grounds.

"We're hoping that it will be a deterrent," she said. "It is four weeks of classes after school, and if you are caught smoking three times, it will be mandatory."

Free program training was offered to all Northern Berkshire schools as a collaboration of the Caron Foundation and the REACH Community Health Foundation. Representatives of the Silvio O. Conte Middle School, and Drury, McCann, and the Cheshire-based Hoosac Valley High School participated in a February training session, said REACH Community Health Advocate Sharon Leary.

Getting The Message Out

All "Clear The Air" campaign entries will be showcased during a May "Relay For Life" event sponsored by Northern Berkshire Healthcare. The REACH Community Foundation is directly affiliated with the NBH.


Think Pink!
The entry judged as the best in each category will deliver its' message to a wide audience. The top print ad will appear during May in local newspapers, the ad judged most effective in the television category will be broadcast on the Northern Berkshire Community Television public access channels during May and possibly on select channels offered by the Adelphia cable company. The top radio advertisement will be aired on local radio station WNAW. The ads may also appear on iberkshires.com.

The campaign is funded with a $1,400 "Get The Word Out" mini-grant awarded by the Medical Foundation Youth Action Initiative.

Additional information about the "Clear The Air" campaign may be acquired by calling Leary at 413-664-5404.

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