Local teens involved with anti-smoking ads
Rochester High School sophomore Cory Blissett isnâ€™t shy when it comes to sharing his opinions on tobacco companies and teen smoking.
After all, whatâ€™s the point of being quiet when your picture is already on the side of a city bus as part of a teen-led anti-tobacco campaign?
"They are manipulating teens and younger kids into trying their product," Blissett said about tobacco companies and smoking. "It is a horrible product. It causes heart disease, cancer and all of that other gross stuff."
Blissett, 15, is one of about 40 Sangamon County teens who serve as advisers for the I Decide anti-tobacco organization, which is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The youths give state officials input on what type of anti-smoking messages might be well-received by their peers.
The ads on the Springfield Metropolitan Transit District buses include pictures of local teenagers and incorporate a name tag theme such as, "Hello, Iâ€™m healthier than someone who smokes." The name tag near Blissettâ€™s picture says, "Hello, Iâ€™m putting the big tobacco companies out of business."
The ads, which appear on two SMTD buses, debuted about a week ago and are to run into August.
Blissett said he is proud to have his likeness associated with the message of putting the tobacco companies out of business.
"People can see my picture and think, â€˜He is trying to put the tobacco companies out of business ... maybe we can, too.â€™"
The picture of Sacred Heart-Griffin High School sophomore Carly Caminiti, another I Decide adviser, also is near the "Hello, Iâ€™m putting the big tobacco companies out of business" message. She said several teens have come up to her and told her they have seen the ad.
"I think the message is really getting to them," the 16-year-old said.
I Decide began in August 2000 as a $3.85 million pilot program in Winnebago County. Funding came from the stateâ€™s national tobacco settlement. It expanded to Sangamon, McLean, Macon, Peoria, Tazewell and Champaign counties.
One of the initiativeâ€™s best-known efforts is the All Smoke High television spots that feature a fictional high school where everyone is required to smoke.
Tom Schafer, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Public Heath, said the participation of the students is the key to success.