No butts about it: Groups host anti-tobacco walk

May 26, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Several Washington County organizations rallied for an anti-tobacco walk Thursday, a kickoff to the World Health Organization's World No Tobacco Day celebration next week.

About 100 walkers, mostly children and teens, gathered at Doub's Woods Park for "Walk For a Tobacco Free World," a quarter-mile trek sponsored by The Coalition for a Healthier Washington County, Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Health Department.

In addition to the walk, the event featured dancers and a performance by Sterlen Barr, a rapper/educator who goes by "No Puff Daddy."

Teens from TRASH (Teens Rejecting Abusive Smoking Habits) and those enrolled in the health department's smoking cessation programs also attended the event.


Organizers said they hoped to urge smokers to quit and encourage nonsmokers to pursue tobacco-free lifestyles. The event began eight years ago, said organizer Paula Ernst, a health educator for the Washington County Health Department.

"Smokers aren't bad people," Barr said. "It's the tobacco that's bad. It's the industry that's bad. They're the demons because it's their job to get our youths hooked on tobacco."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites cigarette smoking as the single most preventable cause of premature death, with more than 400,000 dying from cigarette smoking a year. According to the Maryland State Department of Education, cigarettes are the third most used substance by Maryland adolescents.

Just before the walk, Barr pulled several volunteers to the stage and asked them to dance. Afterward, he asked them to hold their noses and attempt to breathe through a thin straw.

"That's what it feels like when you have emphysema," Barr said.

Thursdays events were part of the WHO's World No Tobacco Day, held annually on May 31. Countries worldwide have scheduled activities on or around World No Tobacco Day.

The WHO created World No Tobacco Day in 1987, in order to draw attention to the global tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes, according to the WHO Web site.

At Doub's Woods Park, Shanice Washington, 11, of Hagerstown, said she was surprised to learn that rat poison was a common ingredient in cigarettes. She said she would never smoke.

"Because you might get lung cancer and die," Shanice said.

Felicia Ansell, 37, of Hagerstown, attended with her daughter Summer Ansell, 13.

"I'm a two-pack-a-day smoker, and I thought (Barr) had a good message today," Felicia Ansell said. "I've been on the patch for four weeks. It's hard. Once you try to quit, that's all you think about."

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