Tar Wars National Conference Showcases Prevention Efforts

Poster, Video Contest Winners Share Strong Messages on Capitol Hill

July 26, 2014 07:09 pm Chris Crawford

Every day in the United States, more than 3,200 people younger than age 18 years smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 2,100 youth and young adults who have been occasional smokers become daily cigarette smokers, according to the CDC.

Fifth-grader Ava Duke, of Scottsboro, Ala., poses with her pirate-themed Tar Wars poster, which took first place in the program's national poster contest.

That's one reason why the AAFP once again hosted its annual Tar Wars National Conference July 21-22 in Washington to recognize a special group of fourth- and fifth-graders for their efforts to spread the word to their peers to stay tobacco-free.

The conference included educational workshops for the children, as well as a Capitol Hill trip where they met with their federal legislators and spoke about the importance of legislation to reduce tobacco use.

The event also included a ceremony to recognize the state winners of the Tar Wars national poster and video contests.

Ava Duke, a fifth-grader from Scottsboro, Ala., earned top bragging rights by winning the 2014 Tar Wars National Poster Contest and taking home a $1,500 check. Her pirate-themed poster was titled, "Treasure your lungs. Don't smoke, me hearties."

Story highlights
  • The AAFP hosted its annual Tar Wars National Conference July 21-22 in Washington to recognize a group of fourth- and fifth-graders for spreading the word to their peers to stay tobacco-free.
  • Speakers at the event featured Legacy Foundation CEO Robin Koval and the FDA's Cindy Miner, both of whom participated in the AAFP Youth & Tobacco Prevention Summit in April.
  • The second day of the conference was devoted to Capitol Hill visits by Tar Wars contest participants to their respective state's federal legislators.

Duke was inspired by her father, who quit smoking last November. She said she and her father enjoyed watching pirate movies and playing pirates, so that became the logical focus for her poster. Two islands are depicted in the poster: a smoker's island that is gray and marked by a skull and crossbones, and a treasure island that is colorful and filled with action.

"The islands represent both of your lungs," Duke told AAFP News. "You want to have the treasure of your lungs." She said she plans to save her winnings to either put toward college or, eventually, buy a car.

Mary Climath Massey, a fifth-grader from Lafayette, Tenn., was named the national winner of the video competition and was presented with a $750 check.

Massey's video features her riding her bicycle and giving other kids the message to be tobacco-free.

When asked what motivated her to participate in the Tar Wars contest, Massey said, "Just seeing people on the street smoking. It's not only harmful to them, it's harmful to other people. To represent Tennessee and get the chance to be here is amazing, too."

Tar Wars was developed in 1988 by the AAFP's current Board Chair Jeff Cain, M.D., of Denver, and health educator Glenna Pember, P.A., of the Hall of Life, a division of the (then) Denver Museum of Natural History, and Doctors Ought to Care. Since 1997, the AAFP has overseen the program, which has reached more than 10 million fourth- and fifth-grade students in all 50 states, several territories and internationally since its founding. Tar Wars is supported, in part, by the AAFP Foundation(www.aafpfoundation.org).

Family physicians and other health care professionals present Tar Wars programs to fourth- and fifth-graders in local schools. The students learn, among other things, how smoking impairs their ability to play sports. They also learn about practical issues, such as how much it costs to use tobacco -- whether for just a week or throughout a lifetime.

Presenters Bring Straight Talk About Smoking

Two featured speakers at the Tar Wars conference were first-time attendees at the event, with each having participated in the AAFP Youth & Tobacco Prevention Summit held in Washington this past April.

Fifth-grader Mary Climath Massey (center), of Lafayette, Tenn., celebrates her first-place national video competition win with Saria Carter Saccocio, M.D., (left) and Ada Stewart, M.D.

Legacy Foundation President and CEO Robin Koval opened her presentation with an interactive tobacco use quiz for the students, complete with handheld audience response devices for instant feedback. The foundation is best known for its truth campaign(www.thetruth.com), which offers no-nonsense, in-your-face, anti-tobacco communication to young adults.

Koval's presentation highlighted key statistics related to youth smoking, such as:

  • rates range from 8 percent in Rhode Island to 19.6 percent in West Virginia,
  • 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease, and
  • 3 million middle- and high-school students continue to smoke.

A second presentation by Cindy Miner, Ph.D., director of the FDA's Division of Regulatory Science and Health Communications Center for Tobacco Products, focused on the agency's "The Real Cost(www.fda.gov)" youth tobacco-prevention campaign. The campaign also features gritty, visually disturbing ads to educate youth on the dangers of tobacco use and the benefits of being tobacco free.

One of the aims of the campaign is to reach at-risk youth, said Miner -- namely, adolescents ages 12-17 who live what could be described as chaotic lives and who would be considered outsiders.

Kids Take Strong Messages to Capitol Hill

The second day of the conference was devoted to Capitol Hill visits between Tar Wars contest participants and their respective federal legislators.

Second-place poster winner Zoe Ladner of Jackson, Miss., said she enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss.

Second-place poster winner Zoe Ladner of Jackson, Miss., shows off her winning poster with Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss.

"(Harper) took my family on an amazing tour of the Capitol," Ladner said. "I really enjoyed the programs and speakers at the AAFP convention and learned so much about advertising and messages about smoking in television and movies."

Ladner's poster featured a camera with the words, "Picture Your Life Smoke Free." Explaining the inspiration behind her poster, she said, "If you want to do something, you have to picture yourself doing it. I want to help people to understand why smoking is bad."

During this, her first visit to Washington, Ladner said she also enjoyed seeing the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial, as well as visiting the museums of the Smithsonian Institution.

Fourth-place video contest winner Nicole Robinson, of St. Petersburg, Fla., said she explained during her visit to the office of Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., that one of her grandmothers was a smoker and now needs an oxygen canister to assist with her breathing.

"If people stopped smoking, the air would be cleaner, and there wouldn't be as many people in the hospital," Robinson said.

Abby Kemp, of Lafayette, Tenn., whose poster featuring kids at play earned an honorable mention, said she offered a similar message during her visit with Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. Kemp had two grandparents, both of whom were smokers, who suffered from lung cancer. They died before she was able to meet them.

"Smoking is gross, and a lot of people do it," she said. "It's gross, and you better stop doing it."

Along with Duke and Ladner, the following students made up the top five poster contest winners:
• third place: Alina Gilmer, of Kenmore, N.Y.
• fourth place: Kaiden Gray, of St. Petersburg, Fla.
• fifth place: Emily Walters, of Caldwell, Idaho.

In addition to Massey, the following students made up the top four video contest winners:
• second place: CJ Coppola, Will Foster and Danny Prior, of East Greenwich, R.I.
• third place: Emma Hayman, of Catawissa, Pa., and Olivia Thompson, of Elysburg, Pa.
• fourth place: Nicole Robison, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Related AAFP News Coverage
AAFP Anti-tobacco Program Turns 25
Tar Wars Winners Visit Capitol Hill; Deputy Surgeon Applauds Activism


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