Teens stick to smoking despite Jennings' death
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Where to go for help
● Are you a teen who wants to
quit smoking? Go to www.cdc.gov/tobacco/tips4youth.htm
for news and tips.
● There's help for adults, too. Call the
Tobacco Free Ways hotline at 740-3031.
Ask an adult about the cause of TV newsman
Peter Jennings' death last week and many will remember how shaken they were by
Ask kids about it, and they tend to shake it
"It really affected my mom," said Will Shakey,
18, a smoker since he was 15. "But it didn't do much to me, though I've known
forever that smoking might kill me."
This is the uphill battle anti-smoking
advocates are facing in the aftermath of Jennings' death from lung cancer,
caused by more than 20 years of smoking.
Adult smokers are getting the message loud and
clear: They should stop smoking right away. Hot lines for the American Cancer
Society and the American Lung Association are flooded with calls seeking help
with quitting. News shows display images of adults throwing away their cigarette
packs by the carton.
Some teens interviewed by the Arizona Daily
Star wouldn't allow their names to be printed, but they echoed Shakey's
There are efforts to get kids to follow older
siblings or parents inspired to stop smoking by Jennings' death.
In Tucson, a state grant filtered through the
Pima County Health Department helps every school district in the city run
anti-smoking programs in elementary and middle schools.
"We're fighting them through education," said
Zak Seward, who coordinates the Tobacco Free Ways program for the Sunnyside
Unified School District. Program coordinators work full time in their districts,
which enables them to develop a relationship with the students they're trying to
Coordinators create lessons for teachers in
grades four through eight, often working with teachers in the classroom to get
the message across about the dangers of smoking.
"If we reach every school," Seward said, "then
every kid will be taught."
Patrick Reynolds, the grandson of former
tobacco mogul R.J. Reynolds, is taking his crusade across the country to speak
out on the dangers of smoking. He knows that it will take more than Jennings'
death to reach kids.
"Jennings gave us a real gift in being one of
the more outspoken news media on the tobacco industry. And God bless him for
that," said Reynolds, who runs the nonprofit organization Smokefree America.
But, he notes, schools often don't do enough to get the message across. And ads
by tobacco companies grab kids' attention more effectively through color and
catchy mascots, like Joe Camel.
A recent study by the American Lung
Association found that 22 percent of U.S. high school students still smoke,
despite an average drop of 50 percent in the number of teen smokers in the last
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
predicts that 6.4 million American children alive today will die of a
smoking-related disease. Smoking causes 87 percent of the estimated 160,440 lung
cancer deaths in the United States each year.
Shakey, a high school dropout who remembers
school assemblies that preached about smoking, said he wants to quit, but can
never find the right motivation.
"I've wanted to stop for a year now, but … it
feels cool (to smoke) when I'm around friends," he said.
State-paid anti-smoking programs aren't fully
instituted in the high schools, though some schools have cessation programs for
the students. For now, the main goal is to stop younger kids from smoking before
they even think about starting.
"We want to get to them before they go to high
school," Seward said.
●Contact reporter Jeff Commings at 573-4191 or
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