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Rally aims to keep young people from smoking

May 14, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

If the 17-year-old's thoughts on smoking were unclear, perhaps the words on his T-shirt were better understood: "Keep your 'butts' off our streets."

"I know I will never smoke," said Marquale Smith, a teen educator for Brothers United Who Dare to Care who was wearing the shirt.

The organization hosted its third annual No Smoking Youth Rally Saturday at the Martin Luther King Community Center. The event aimed to teach young people about the risks associated with smoking in order to encourage them to never light up, organizer Andy Smith said.

"If we can keep one person from smoking, it can save their life and save them $50,000 in health-care costs," said Andy Smith, adding that he recently lost a loved one to lung disease.

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"If one event like this costs $4,000 to put on - you do the math," Andy Smith said. "That seems worth it to me."

Representatives from the Frederick, Md., NAACP, the Frederick-based Center of Peace and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce attended the rally.

Kimberly Rasch, division director for health services at the Washington County Health Department, also attended.

The event was funded through a grant from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Around 40 children and teens gathered in pockets throughout the MLK Center gym, many of them trying to memorize a list of 20 harmful ingredients found in cigarettes. Cash prizes went to those able to name the chemicals, Smith said.

Marquale, Andy Smith's nephew, quizzed one girl on the chemicals.

"Arsenic, ammonia, acetone ... there's one more 'A' word," said Tatyana Hodges, 9, as she read through her list of chemicals. "Acetic acid. I said that one already, I think."

Tatyana said she was most surprised to learn that ammonia - the same ingredient used to clean windows and floors - was found in cigarettes.

"It might mean that you have that stuff inside of you," she said.

Rasch said more and more smokers are starting in their late elementary-school years.

"We want to get to them before they get to middle school and high school," Rasch said.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General on smoking, an estimated 11.7 million youths ages 10 to 17 will become smokers by the year 2010.

Marquale said that when it came to his peers, people who were Tatyana's age were easier to persuade against smoking.

"Some of these kids who smoke have the mind-set that they're going to do what they want to do," he said. "Maybe they'll learn the hard way."

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