St. Frances de Chantal eighth graders worked with the Archdiocese Drug Abuse Prevention Program to raise awareness of the affects of tobacco advertising on youth in the community.
Four students took part in the Smoke-Free After School Program facilitated by ADAPP and St. Frances counselor Theresa Esposito and presented their findings through essays and visual aides, including a large model of a Newport cigarette pack, in a panel discussion at the school on Thursday, December 22.
Students Lisa Popovic, Jasmine Marines, Cristina Todino, and Dorinda Sam spoke of the affect that tobacco advertising has on youth in the Throggs Neck area, and how they believe it could negatively impact the community.
Participating in the “board meeting” were representatives from the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership, ADAPP, Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership, as well as St. Frances de Chantal principal Grace Lucie and Councilman Jimmy Vacca.
“When we first started our anti-tobacco group, we walked along E. Tremont Avenue to see all of the advertisements for cigarettes,” Todino said. “There are many things that they talk about, supposedly how cigarettes can relieve your stress, bring you pleasure, or just make you feel relaxed. Well, all of that is not true.”
Tobacco advertising degrades the community, and much of it is found in local grocery stores, delis, and gas stations, Sam said.
“When I see these advertisements, it makes me think that our community has no self-respect,” Sam stated. “Since smoking declines our health, and is expensive, it seems to me as if we are not taking care of our community.”
Marines said that she learned first-hand how harmful cigarette smoking could be when her aunt died from lung damage.
“These advertisements show teenagers that smoking is fun, but they do not show how much it can harm them,” Marines said.
Popovic spoke of her own personal experience with four family members who smoke, and said that smoking is harmful and addictive.
“This is a problem in our community because many young teens start smoking when they are thirteen,” Popovic stated. “They feel that they should go with the crowd or they just want to feel cool or bad.”
The four young ladies have created awareness of tobacco advertising, something that is all too often missed in the hustle and bustle of raising children and going about daily business, Vacca said.
“I live in Throggs Neck and go shopping on E. Tremont Avenue every day, and I was never aware of what you young ladies noticed,” Vacca said.
He said that he is not sure if he could get tobacco advertising banned because of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s free speech guarantee, but he nevertheless was impressed by the presentation and will notice the ads when he parks his car and walks E. Tremont Avenue.
“Just hearing it from the children was a wonderful message,” said David Lehmann, manager of the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership. “The teacher got them_ to explore different aspects of it.”
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393