Students send magazines' tobacco ads back to publishers in `Don't Buy' effort

NEIGHBORS

April 12, 2001|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SEVERNA PARK High School students celebrated Tobacco-Free Kids Week with a little postal punch - collecting all the cigarette ads they could find in magazines and mailing them back to the publishers with a message of their own: "Severna Park Students Don't Buy Your Tobacco Ads."

The mass mailing to magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone and People, took place April 4 - National Kick Butt Day - one of various events in the weeklong promotion by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids under auspices of the Washington-based National Council for Tobacco-Free Kids. The campaign claims to be the nation's largest-ever nongovernmental initiative launched to protect children from tobacco addiction and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Through its publications and the Internet, the campaign reports that 21.4 percent of Maryland middle and high school youths smoke. Every year in this state, 19,000 schoolchildren take up the habit.

Responsible for bringing the project to students at SPHS is senior Samantha Brown, daughter of Sue Lawless and Bill Cameron of West Severna Park.

Last summer, Samantha worked for the county Department of Health, where she was trained to give anti-smoking presentations to children. Samantha - who plans to major in elementary education this fall at St. Mary's College - estimates that over the course of the summer she spoke before more than 1,000 youngsters in county-sponsored camps.

With the summer experience under her belt, Samantha reasoned that teens might benefit from a "more hands-on project."

And they did.

"This is the first year that we have done a project like this [at Severna Park High]," Samantha said, "and I think it has produced the most student involvement ever."

Her personal motivation to be smoke-free intensified a few years ago when she watched her own mother struggle to kick the habit.

With encouragement from U.S. history and general psychology teacher Clark Nesbitt, who conducted contests among his classes to see who could bring in the most ads, students turned in more than 1,500 cigarette ads - along with tear-out subscription cards from magazines.

Supported by school nurse Sandy Ogas and American government teacher Barbara Segnatelli, the Student Government Association's faculty sponsor, nearly a dozen SGA members spent several days after school stapling one ad to each subscription card.

The cards were then stamped with the message, "Don't Buy," using an ink stamp paid for by the SGA.

Seniors Justin Fenton and Andrew Hicks joined Samantha in stuffing mailboxes with the cards, accompanied by teachers Nesbitt and Segnatelli.

The idea for the subscription-card project came from material published by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which receives funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids can be reached by calling 202-296-5469, or at its Web site, www.tobaccofreekids.org.

Snip Snap project

At the next monthly meeting of the Snip Snap Sewing Club, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 19, members and guests will make flannel receiving blankets and nightgowns that will be donated to the premature newborn ward of the pediatric department at Harbor Hospital Center in Baltimore.

"In the three years we've been doing this, we've donated at least 100 pieces," says club spokeswoman Dolores Schmeisser.

The sewing club meets at Christ Lutheran Church, 8245 Jumpers Hole Road. Information: 410-766-8117.

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