Dante Natoli and Angelo Salvatico, two 8th grade students from St. Theresa School, who are not concerned with what the “cool thing to do” is, are hoping to lead the way to a smoke free Bronx.
On Thursday, February 9, the boys gave a presentation to a small audience that included students, faculty, Assemblyman Michael Bennedetto, and community board representative Patrick Caruso, about their findings while surveying several deli and store owners in their community.
The teens set up their presentation as a newscast, which they called ‘What’s happening in the Bronx’ and explained that within a five block radius of the school, there were multiple tobacco advertisements in store windows and gas stations.
“We discovered that tobacco advertising is rampant in our neighborhood and frankly it is a shame,” Natoli said.
Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership member Joanne Timmins said the two boys were educated to all of the negative effects of smoking by the smoke-free after school program, the students also worked after school with their school prevention counselor Theresa Esposito.
The Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership, a local coalition of public, private, faith, civic and legislative organizations that, since 1998, works together to prevent alcohol and substance abuse among our youth.
The group works to implement prevention and intervention strategies through community collaboration and to advocate for healthy and productive life styles and respect for residents. They received a small grant that they have used in 8 different schools throughout the Bronx to educate students about the hazards of smoking, and also to bring the issue to the attention to political figures and community board members.
“Studies have shown that tobacco advertising has a negative affect on youth because the more advertising they see, the more likely they are to smoke,” Salavatico said.
“This is true,” he said. “Not only are tobacco executives increasing sales by advertising in our neighborhood, but they also advertise in the way they display their cigarettes.”
The boys showed a power point slide of a picture of what they call “the power wall”. “The power wall” is the actual display of cigarettes most delis and pharmacies have behind the counter.
“With youth in our community being exposed to the power wall and tobacco ads it is no wonder why so many have been smoking cigarettes,” Napoli said.
On January 19, the boys along with a chaperone, conducted several interviews with local deli and pharmacy owners.
“This deli owner shared some interesting facts,” Napoli said, referring to a clip the boys played for their audience. “We learned that when delis display tobacco advertisements, they get a discount for every carton they sell. In addition to that, cigarette sales really increase their overall store sales.”
Although the boys found some owners were willing to talk to them, others refused to be interviewed.
“After several disappointing interviews, we have a new found respect for pharmacies in our area,” Salvatico said.
The students interviewed a pharmacist near school and were surprised by his answer.
“We interviewed a local pharmacist and learned that he values the health and well being of his customers,” Salvatico said. “He only sells products that promote good health.”
Salavatico said he wants to see more store owners supporting a smoke-free environment for kids.
“I want to see people supporting not selling cigarettes where kids are,” he said. “I want to see more of that not only in the Bronx but across the country.”