Effort intends to persuade kids not to adopt habit

By Rachel Denny Clow
Originally published 10:18 p.m., October 20, 2008
Updated 10:18 p.m., October 20, 2008

Mayor Henry Garrett (from left) and Barbara Flato give William McDonald, Christus Spohn Hospital Shoreline COO, a a certificate of appreciation.

Tinku the talking ant is the mascot for the AntE Tobacco Campaign. The aim is to reach young children and persuade them not to take up the health-threatening habit of smoking. Photos by Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times

Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times Tinku the talking ant is the mascot for the AntE Tobacco Campaign.


To volunteer, donate, or for more information on the It’s Your Life Foundation or the Ante Tobacco Campaign, call 885-7722 or go to www.itsyourlifefoundation.org

An anti-smoking campaign featuring a cartoon ant named Tinku that started with four volunteers four years ago is now 75 strong, with nurses, physicians, medical students and other volunteers getting out the message.

The AntE Tobacco Campaign received a boost Monday with more than $75,000 in donations going toward the It’s Your Life Foundation, a nonprofit formed in response to the growing campaign.

Dr. Salim Surani and his wife Zehra Surani, who started the program locally, donated $50,000; Christus Spohn Health System donated $15,000; and several other local groups also donated to the campaign.

The money will be used to update and produce a new video and workbooks, purchase additional audio/visual equipment and distribute copies of the materials to reach more children in coming years.

“We want to prevent the first puff,” Salim Surani said. “The motto is ‘Say no to smoking the first time and every time.'”

The program targets elementary-aged children from the first to third grade in an effort to prevent a bad habit before it starts. Students in Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Wood River, Falfurrius, Kingsville, San Diego and other locations have received the information, and the plan is to expand the lessons statewide.

“It started out very small,” said Barbara Flato, a foundation board member and employee of Christus Spohn Health System. “It’s incredible how many kids we’ve reached in the last few years. If we can keep just one from smoking, it’s worth it.”

The program features Tinku the ant, his friends and his family, who learn about the dangers of tobacco during a journey in which they face obstacles such as a tobacco-pushing devil ant that tries to tempt the group to smoke. The ants turn down the tobacco and are rewarded by a fairy who grants them the power to carry items greater than their own weight.


Call 885-7722 or go to caller.com

By the numbers

Area students reached through the AntE Tobacco Campaign

2005-2006: 3,562
2006-2007: 4,953
2007-2008: 9,356
2008 to date: 5,000

Source: It’s Your Life Foundation

Contact Rachel Denny Clow at 886-4358 or clowr@caller.com