High School Students Looking to Stamp Out Smoking
Students at Western Boone High School are at the forefront of the latest push to stamp out smoking by cutting it off at the roots.
The anti-smoking foundation Legacy premiered its latest ad campaign on Sunday's Video Music Awards, declaring a social media selfie of you smoking makes you an unofficial cigarette spokesperson. The tagline "Finish It" takes a generational approach, exhorting today's teenagers to be the last to deliver new customers to the cigarette industry.
But Legacy is also mobilizing school anti-smoking groups like Western Boone's "Voice" for a social media countercampaign. Voice plans to post anti-smoking videos calling out the tobacco industry's marketing techniques, and use a Legacy-created app to superimpose Finish It's "X" logo over their Facebook profile photos.
Legacy COO David Dobbins says teenagers wield influence within their schools. He says an anti-smoking message that might be viewed with suspicion when delivered by adults or a health agency becomes more persuasive in a peer-to-peer setting.
Western Boone Cross-country runner Madison Gourley says they'll spread the word to classmates and fellow athletes from other schools. She says athletes can and will carry the message beyond their usual social circles, and says their role-model status can give their message weight with their classmates.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who joined Legacy's board this week, acknowledges the idea of using peer pressure to reduce youth smoking isn't a new one. But he says each new effort has trimmed the ranks of youth smokers further. He says there's a snowball effect -- as greater percentages of teenagers turn away from smoking, it increases peer pressure on the holdouts.