Ohio Starts New Anti-Smoking Campaign

By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press Writer

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Ohio is hoping a new anti-smoking campaign unveiled Thursday will help deter kids from being tempted to light up.

The state rolled out new anti-tobacco ads that are part of its $50 million campaign against smoking. The program, called "stand," is a youth-oriented advertising blitz aimed at catching children before they start smoking.

The anti-tobacco ads were shown to about 300 people in McTigue Junior High School's gymnasium in the city with the nation's highest smoking rate. The ads will highlight the dangers of passive smoke and begin airing Friday.

"Big Tobacco has gotten to where they are because they've figured out how to involve kids," said Michael Renner, head of the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation. "We're going to stop them in their tracks."

The foundation is one of seven trust funds created after a 1998 national settlement with the tobacco industry, in which Ohio was promised as much as $10 billion over 26 years.

The campaign will include television ads, billboards and community programs that will teach kids about the effects of smoking. The television advertisements include children who talk about why they don't smoke.

The commercials are edgy and use words young people can relate to, said Attorney General Betty Montgomery.

"Kids pay attention to kids," she said.

One TV ad features an eyebrow pierced 15-year-old who says she's "freaking sick" of seeing so many people smoking.

"I stand for not smoking because that's what's right for me. You cool with that?" says Brooke Moore, a student at Oakwood High School near Dayton.

Another spot has a hip-hop flair with a student who looks disgusted because he is surrounded by smokers at home and on his way to school.

The foundation decided to kick off its anti-smoking campaign in Toledo, which has the highest rate of smoking in any metropolitan area in the country. More than 31 percent of its residents reported they were smokers, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Toledo-Lucas County Board of Health said children and young adults account for a high number of smokers.

The health department this summer adopted a ban on smoking inside all public places, including bars and restaurants. The divisive decision is being held up by a lawsuit.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)