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Published: Friday, 6/20/2003

Teens pan celebrity smokers

Listen up, Hollywood. Tune in, MTV.

Some Toledo-area teens have a couple of messages for your bad boys on the big screen and in the music business: Stop smoking. And better yet, tell us about it.

As part of a statewide campaign, four local teens yesterday displayed a stack of 500 petitions collected at local malls, schools, and churches. They contained the signatures of young people protesting the appearance of tobacco products in movies and music videos.

Among the super-celebs who would make the most impact if they came out against smoking were musicians 50 Cent, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Nelly, according to the teens. Movie stars included Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, and Jim Carrey.

“They're almost like our friends,” said Kayt Shelley, a 17-year-old Springfield Local High School student, of pop culture's biggest names. “We see them over and over.”

Though most teens see smoking among their peers as “uncool,” “lame,” and “gross,” there's a wide disconnect between that real-life tobacco use and that delivered by the airwaves, said Amanda Baker, another Springfield Local High School student.

According to the group, teens are 16 times more likely to smoke if their idols do.

The petitions were among the more than 7,300 that were collected statewide in the past two weeks by activists in “stand,” a group funded by the tobacco settlement and armed with the goal of curtailing smoking, especially among youth.

During yesterday's Toledo news conference, which was one of several held simultaneously across the state by other “stand” teens, an ominous presence stood in the background. Death - really Es'say Hamilton, a 16-year-old Rogers High School student, stood in black robes and a stark white face.

She held a juice jar partly filled with tar, representing the amount ingested during a year's worth of smoking a pack a day.

“Just feel it,” she said, tugging on the heavy jar and wrinkling her nose in disgust. “That's smoking.”

Black paper dolls reinforced the point, illustrating those who die daily because of smoking-related health issues.



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