Anti-smoking campaign uses animated tool

Anthony Martinez Beven Caller-Times
Saturday, June 24, 2006

The message is colorful, fun and easy to understand: Tobacco use is addictive and can lead to serious health complications. Area health advocates are hoping those words will stick with local children throughout their teens and into adulthood.

Unveiled on Friday at the Christus Spohn Cancer Center, the Anti-Tobacco Targeting Children campaign centers on a DVD cartoon story line laced with anti-tobacco messages.

Dr. Salim Surani, a local lung specialist heading the campaign, said because cigarette companies in the past have used popular cartoon characters, such as Joe Camel, in their marketing strategies, it is necessary to curtail “cool” images of smoking and other tobacco use with positive cartoon images.

And while tobacco has been made popular through media campaigns, studies have shown that kids also learn about tobacco use from peers, family members and role models, such as celebrities, said Dr. Kalpalatha Guntupalli, creator of the anti-tobacco DVD and professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The campaign specifically targets area children in 1st through 3rd grades. Surani said the DVD has already been shown to grade schoolers in the Flour Bluff Independent School District and will soon be presented to Corpus Christi Independent School District students.

“Every day, 4,000 children start smoking,” Surani said. He added early intervention and behavioral may reduce the possibility of tobacco use later in life. “We want to get down to the level of the kids and try to educate.”

Debbie Wood, vice president of people and culture for Christus Spohn Health System, said this campaign will be a definite benefit to the community.

“I think the more folks that are aware of the dangers of these products, the less likely they are to try them at an early age,” Wood said.

Contact Anthony Martinez Beven at 886-3792

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