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Anti-tobacco program is active in school

November 08, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Kids are teaching kids about the risks of using tobacco, and a group of Warm Springs Middle School students might be making an impact.

Marcie Rice, a seventh-grade teacher at Warm Springs Middle School, is the school advisor for Raze, an after-school program made up of teens to "tear down or destroy the lies of Big Tobacco," Rice said.

According to the Raze West Virginia Web site, it is a "statewide youth anti-tobacco movement that exposes Big Tobacco's marketing schemes to get teens hooked on cigarettes and spit tobacco."

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This is the first year Warm Springs Middle School students are actively involved in Raze, said Rice. Once a month, the after-school program has a meeting, and the Raze crew of about 15 members discusses ways to get the attention of their peers about the dangers of tobacco use. The members joined on their own, she said.

Rice said some of the Raze members have parents who smoke or have lost family members to tobacco-related illnesses.

"I was surprised by the number of students who joined the group who have close family members that still smoke, and that is a major motivation for joining," she said.

Recently, the group created an activity or "commotion" to show that one out of five West Virginians will die from tobacco use by placing a blue taped "X" on every fifth locker in the school.

The next morning, before the students were dismissed from the school gym for their first class, the Raze group called each student with an "X" to come to the gym floor. Rice said about 120 students were on the gym floor, representing the number of deaths from tobacco use.

"It made a definite point," she said.

"The kids are spreading awareness of its negative effects," Rice said.

On Veterans Day, the group will spend the day at Keyser (W.Va.) High School to participate in a regional Raze On, a meeting with all the teen school groups in six counties, Rice said. They will "brainstorm ideas to present to their peers to avoid the risks of smoking," she said.

"This program also teaches active leadership," she said.

Rice said this also is the first year that Berkeley Springs and Paw Paw high schools are participating with Raze crews in the schools.

"I think it's a great program because tobacco use among students is a real problem," said Allan Keenan, acting assistant principal at Warm Springs Middle School. "There are some middle-school students that are smoking now."

According to the Web site, 28.5 percent of West Virginia high school students smoke.

"If this program gets one kid not to smoke, it's worth it," Rice said.

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