Tar Wars: The Battle to Combat Smoking

By: Leonard Horton
By: Leonard Horton

It's estimated in Florida close to 34,000 children under 18 become new daily smokers each year. In Georgia that number is closer to 21,000.

A nationwide push is underway to help teens and youth learn the dangers of smoking and to pass the message along to those around them.

In a day of celebration at North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, students were honored for saying no to tobacco.

"Once in a while I'm exposed to secondhand smoke and it's good that in restaurants they've just not allowed smoking, no smoking sections," said student Stephanie Miles.

Parent Cindy Miles remember when smoking was the in thing to do.

"When I was growing up, smoking was cool. If you didn't smoke, you weren't cool. You did have the peer pressure, and we didn't have these types of programs. I think it's wonderful to get them started at a really young age."

The program is called Tar Wars, a tobacco free education program from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

During Wednesday's presentation students were asked if they'd ever tried smoking or if they're ever exposed to secondhand smoke.

"I think it's bad for your heart and lungs and it's just really bad for your body," said student Autumn Coppinger.

Health officials say children should become more vocal toward those who create secondhand smoke in their homes.

"That the kids let their parents know what happens to be around smokers and smoke in the area and how it affects their asthma. It's just really to encourage kids to let the parents know not to smoke around them," said Tar Wars Florida coordinator Saria Saccocio.

With an estimated 90 percent of adult smokers starting before the age of 18, health officials are hoping programs like this persuade children away from tobacco use.

Student Stephanie Miles is the first place winner of an anti-tobacco poster competition. Her poster is headed to Orlando for a statewide competition and possibly to Washington, D.C. for national recognition.


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