Getting the message to teens

High-schoolers perform in TV commercial as part of anti-tobacco campaign

April 16, 2006|By KAREN NIKTIN | KAREN NIKTIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A 30-second TV commercial being shown on MTV and other channels features the local rock band Think singing about the evils of smoking.

"Take one drag, it'll drag you down," the young band members sing. "Be better off it was never around."

At one point, the band goes outside and drummer Davis Rowan keeps the beat with twigs instead of drumsticks. The band, whose four members attend high school in Anne Arundel County, made the commercial as part of its prize for winning a battle of the bands contest in January.

The ad is airing locally on MTV, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and the Family Channel through April 30.

At the end of the commercial, viewers are urged to call the county Health Department for their "free quit kit." The ad will run 264 times, said Court Blatchford of Crosby Marketing Communications in Annapolis, which is working with the health department on its teen smoking programs.

The commercial and other no-smoking events throughout the county were orchestrated by the health department as part of a Tobacco Free Kids Week, April 3 through last Sunday.

A free concert set for April 8 at the Annapolis Harbour Center Pavilion was rained out, but organizers are planning to reschedule the show.

The four winning bands from the Battle of the Bands contest, sponsored in part by the county Health Department, will appear in the free show, the third concert in a Kick Butts Tour sponsored by the Health Department.

The other winning bands were Pompeii Graffiti of Annapolis High School, Sonic Bloom of Southern High and Revolta of Broadneck High.

Vocalist Charles Kavoossi, 18, a senior at Archbishop Spalding High in Severn, formed Think in September with rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist Tyler Felt, 17, a senior at Spalding; drummer Rowan, 17, a Spalding junior; and bassist Bryan Ziliox, 17, a senior at the Annapolis Area Christian School.

"If we were to classify ourselves as one genre, it would be rock," Kavoossi said.

All had been in different bands, so it didn't take them long to play well together, he said. They wrote the catchy tune and lyrics themselves for the featured song.

The ad was filmed in March at LSP Recording Studios in Annapolis, Kavoossi said. Both LSP and Comcast donated time to the project, according to the Health Department.

This is the second year that the Battle of the Bands winner has been awarded the opportunity to make a TV commercial. The band was happy to preach the no-smoking message, said Kavoossi.

"It was basically about how when you get addicted to cigarettes, you waste your money and waste your body," he said.

It's a message the band believes, he said.

"Nobody in the band smokes," he said. "We all have on pretty straight heads."

But he said even if some of the band members were, hypothetically, heavy smokers, they would still have no problem singing a song that urges people to quit or never start.

"It's pretty obvious, the bad side effects," he said. Or, as he sings in the ad: "So keep your lips off the cigarette, before you're going through something that you're gonna regret."

During the no-smoking week, schools were encouraged to hold their own events, explained Wendy Mahan, program manger for youth risk reduction at the county Health Department.

Some schools had anti-smoking poster contests, she said, others had pledge walls, on which students wrote promises not to smoke, she said.

In all, almost 100 schools and other community groups registered that they were participating, she said.

Library branches gave out anti-smoking information, and even community groups such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts got involved, she said. Since the health department started the Smoking Stinks program and Tobacco Free Kids Week, the county's teen smoking rate has been halved, from 30 percent in 1994 to 15 percent in 2004, Mahan said.

She believes that the community partnerships and anti-tobacco activities help explain the drop.

For Kavoossi, the opportunity to discourage smoking while playing his music and making a commercial has been wonderful. "We kind of just had fun with it," he said.

To request a "free quit kit" from the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Health, call 410-222-7979.

Sun reporter Anica Butler contributed to this article

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