Elementary kids raise voices against tobacco
SALT LAKE CITY -- The 40-foot-long "Tobacco Wall of Truth" was the centerpiece Thursday of Public Health Day displays in the Capitol Building rotunda. The exhibits urge legislators to spend more time considering public health issues.
The 8-foot-tall wall contained more than 100 pictures and letters from public school kids urging people to quit smoking and the Legislature to do more to support anti-tobacco programs.
In a letter to tobacco companies, one student wrote: "You don't care if people die. Why don't you care? I bet you can't answer that question."
And another student wrote: "My parents are trying to stop (smoking) but they can't. I love them so much I don't want them to die from smoking."
The letters and pictures were selected from hundreds sent to county health departments throughout the state.
"We had well over 350 because we also got them from other counties," said Kim Parker of the Weber-Morgan Health Department's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. "That's quite a few considering we only asked for them in December and we had very little advertising."
"We can't think of a better way to get lawmakers more involved and familiar with public health issues," said Beverly May, a board member of the Utah Public Health Association and spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society's Utah affiliate.
May said association members hope to ensure lawmakers are as informed as possible on public health issues.
Parker said one goal is to protect $4 million in funding the Legislature approved last year for tobacco prevention, cessation and enforcement programs. To continue that level of funding, the lawmakers will need to reauthorize that appropriation.
In addition, Parker said she hopes the 2002 Legislature will spend even more on such programs.
"We've got to educate the public. They're behind us," Parker said. But she said voters often are unaware of what the Legislature is doing on tobacco issues.
"The public needs to be better informed, to understand that the tobacco industry is targeting their kids. If we can get to them, they'll support more money for anti-tobacco programs."
Parker said the wall will be moved around the state, put on display primarily in shopping malls, to let parents and neighbors see the work of their children and the children next door.