Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 11:03 pm |Updated: 11:02 pm, Fri Sep 6, 2013.
The images alone make the message of Kick Butts Day very clear: Using tobacco kills.
Grand Island Senior High students who are members of Tobacco Free Hall County sent that message on Wednesday by creating a giant “cigarette” and surrounding it with the taped outlines of seven bodies on the floor in the school’s commons area.
The entire display was surrounded by yellow crime scene tape.
Junior Nathaniel Ponce said the idea came up during a brainstorming session by GISH students involved in Tobacco Free Hall County. He had an idea for a cigarette being “smushed,” but that concept was refined to create the Kick Butts Day display.
Ponce and junior Kaili Smith said one early idea was to draw numerous body outlines in chalk on the sidewalks around Senior High. However, they decided that would take too long.
The various ideas eventually coalesced into Wednesday’s display. The giant cigarette was created by wrapping white toilet paper around a core, then spray painting the top brown to make it look like a filter and spray painting gray on the very edge of the bottom to look like ash from a cigarette that had just been stubbed out.
Marshmallows were spray painted gray to look like ashes that had fallen from the cigarette.
Ponce said the yellow crime scene tape was used mostly to keep people away from the cigarette, which could have been easily knocked over. However, the crime scene tape also has its symbolic meanings.
Smith is 17, while Ponce will turn 17 later this spring. In Nebraska, the legal smoking age is 18, said Sandy Yager, prevention coordinator for Tobacco Free Hall County. As a result, it is illegal — technically, a crime — for almost all students at Grand Island Senior High or any other Nebraska high school to smoke.
But there is another bit of symbolism connected to the yellow crime scene tape. One provision of the 1998 tobacco settlement between the four largest U.S. tobacco companies and 46 state attorneys general was that tobacco companies neither directly nor indirectly market tobacco use to young people.
Neither Ponce nor Smith believes the tobacco companies are fully living up to that agreement. Smith pointed out that there are companies (although apparently not tobacco companies) that still manufacture candies that look like cigarettes.
Ponce said seven bodies were outlined with tape on the floor around the giant cigarette because “every seven seconds, someone dies from tobacco worldwide.”
Posters with such messages were posted near the stubbed-out cigarette display, as well as in various locations around Senior High. One poster had this information: “More people are killed by tobacco each year than AIDS, alcohol, motor vehicles, illegal drugs and suicide combined.”
That’s sobering information when a person considers all the individual, high-profile campaigns to prevent deaths from AIDS, deaths from alcohol caused by drinking and driving, traffic accident deaths caused by distracted driving (such as texting while driving), deaths from illegal drugs and deaths by suicide.
One poster had a message targeted specifically to students in high school and also in middle school. It said, “Each year, an estimated 390,000 teens start smoking because of exposure to smoking in movies. As a result, 120,000 of them will die prematurely.”
In addition to Ponce and Smith, other GISH students in Tobacco Free Hall County who helped set up the display were junior Taylor Tinnell, junior Shelby Smolinski and freshman Adam Lehechka. Sponsors for the group are Yager and GISH science teacher Matthew Lehechka.
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