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Peers Try to Stamp Out Smoking: The Full Court Press Program

Each day 3,000 young people under age 18 start smoking and about 1,000 become regular smokers. (Studies have shown that teens who smoke are more likely than non-smokers to use alcohol and marijuana as well as cocaine.)

But, as with other addictive drugs, there is a mix of factors that lead young people to smoke cigarettes, including peer pressure, parental smoking, and advertising that targets youth. In recent months, this latter tobacco industry practice has been verified by internal documents uncovered by Congress. For the past two years in Tucson, a group of teenagers have been training to counsel their peers to resist taking up the habit. Full Court Press is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered by the American Cancer Society in partnership with a number of other Tucson groups. With an approach designed and implemented by 15-year-olds, the goal of Full Court Press is to develop a model for the country by achieving a 10 percent reduction in youth tobacco use in the Tucson area by 2000. Arizona has launched its own $30 million tobacco education and cessation campaign, but so far it appears to be having mixed results. Interviews with some teenagers indicate that the state's strong anti-smoking message -- emblazoning the slogan "Tobacco. Tumor causing, teeth staining, smelly puking habit" on T-shirts, billboards, and caps -- may actually spur more rebellious teens to begin experimenting with tobacco.

Full Court Press tries to engage high-risk youth in developing and identifying ways to address community problems, says Donna Grande, who directs the program. One of the unique aspects of Full Court's philosophy is that the teen representatives freely deride the tobacco industry, lambasting their advertising designed to entice youth. The goal is to make teenagers more aware of the money and power involved in promoting addictive habits and to educate them not only about the health implications of tobacco use but also about how tobacco products are marketed and the politics of the tobacco industry.

-- Janet Firshein


Photo: Stephanie Rausser/FPG International


This description is not intended as an endorsement of this particular program.

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