AAFP Anti-tobacco Program Turns 25

Tar Wars Winners Visit Capitol Hill; Deputy Surgeon General Applauds Activism

July 18, 2013 03:30 pm Matt Brown Washington –

Kinjal Gupta is saving for her education, and Delaney Reid is helping rescue her neighborhood playground. In addition, the two winners of AAFP's 2013 Tar Wars national poster and video contests, respectively, say they'll continue fighting to stop tobacco use in the United States.

(Then) Deputy U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., speaks with students and their families during the Tar Wars 25th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C.

The fifth-graders each received a $1,000 cash prize and a $500 gift card for their creativity in getting the tobacco-free message out to their respective communities. Gupta, from West Greenwich, R.I., won with her poster, "Live long, stand strong, be tobacco free," which features an elderly man carrying groceries through a snow-covered landscape. Gupta said she chose the theme "Because food is good for you; it's healthy, and it helps you live longer."

"It feels great that I can help people to stop from smoking," Gupta said, referring to her artwork, which she refines during art lessons every Friday. "I'd just like for people who are smoking to stop, and I will try my best to keep people who aren't smoking from starting."

Reid, who hails from Kenmore, N.Y., said she wanted to make sure people don't use tobacco but didn't think a video of her alone would get the job done. So she did what any intelligent, red-blooded American kid would do -- she made her little sister, Chloe, co-star.

Story Highlights
  • Kinjal Gupta, of West Greenwich, R.I., was named the winner of the 2013 Tar Wars national poster contest.
  • Delaney Reid, of Kenmore, N.Y., was named the winner of the program's 2013 national video contest.
  • Since the tobacco-free education program's inception in 1988, family physicians and other health care professionals have presented the Tar Wars message to more than 9 million fourth- and fifth-graders around the United States.

"It's boring when there's only one person in (a video), and I think there should be multiple people," Reid said. "Because when you get into a conversation, it's much more interesting."

Chloe Reid, who admitted that her big sister did, in fact, bully her into acting, said it was a good thing to tell people not to smoke and that being in the video ended up being fun. Of course, it helps that big sister is willing to put her money where her message is.

"She's giving me 100 bucks," Chloe said, flashing an ear-to-ear grin.

Another chunk, according to her big sister, is going for public improvements back home.

"Well, they tore down our playground, and we are trying to get it back," said Delaney. "We are going to get it back, but we have to raise the money. So, I'm going to give some of (the award money) to the playground."

"Activism Will Win the Day"

Since the program's inception in 1988, Tar Wars -- the AAFP's tobacco-free education program -- has made it possible for family physicians and other health care professionals to present its message to more than 9 million fourth- and fifth-graders.

Delaney Reid, of Kenmore, N.Y., winner of the 2013 Tar Wars national video contest, poses with her little sister and co-star, Chloe.

As part of the Tar Wars 25th anniversary celebration on July 15 in Washington, program co-founder and AAFP President Jeff Cain, M.D.; Tar Wars Master of Ceremonies Saria Carter Saccocio, M.D.; and Ashok Kumar, M.D., chair of the Tar Wars program advisers, welcomed (then) U.S. Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., to speak to the more than 30 student state winners -- and their families -- who attended the event.

A family physician by training and the acting surgeon general as of July 17, Lushniak said that the best way to keep people of all ages from becoming dependent on tobacco is to make sure they never start using it in the first place.

"After 50 years of work, it is your age group we are most concerned about," Lushniak told the students. "For every person that dies, I have two young people starting to smoke. Nine out of 10 of those smokers will start before they're 18 years old, and 99 percent by the time they are 26. So, if we can stop people from picking up a cigarette between … let's say, 14 and 26 … we can have an incredible impact on this country."

West Greenwich, R.I., fifth grader Kinjal Gupta, discusses her 2013 Tar Wars national poster contest-winning entry with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

Lushniak said that like the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS) defends Americans from attack, but unlike those armed uniform services, the USPHS doesn't use conventional weapons.

"Our weapons are the stethoscope, needles for vaccinations and dealing with public health issues, such as smoking," he said. "We treat disease and injuries and bad things that can happen to our public the same way we deal with an enemy (of the United States). So through your work here, you are part of that now, you are helping me."

Activism, through programs like Tar Wars, will win the day, said Lushniak.

"This is a battle, and I need your help -- with posters like this -- until there is no smoking left in this country. Kids, when you walk around out there, you still see smokers … and our job, working with you, is to bring those numbers down even further (than the current one-out-of-five-adults-smokes figure). We are taking baby steps, but this is a battle, and I don't -- we don't -- give up."

Jeff Cain, M.D., on 25 Years of Tar Wars

Hill Visits

On July 16, many of the state poster contest winners visited Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials and present them with copies of their posters and information on the program. Gupta, for example, met with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., as well as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

Reid, and her family, met with staff members from the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., before they were treated to a private tour of the Capitol, including a trip to the gallery in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

"This was a lot of fun," Reid said.

The following students placed in the Top 5 of the poster contest:

  • second place: Carson Fisher, Sheffield, Ill.
  • third place: Albert Burkle, Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • fourth place: Olivia Sheetz, Wilmington, Del.
  • fifth place: Sonia Amin, Clearwater, Fla.

The following students placed in the Top 4 of the video contest:

  • second place: Corbin Ellis, St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • third place: Benjamin Thornton (Cranston, R.I.), Alex Simon Marootian (Providence, R.I.), and Daniel Shimberg (East Greenwich, R.I.)
  • fourth place: Clark McArthur, Atlanta.

Tar Wars is supported, in part, by the AAFP Foundation(www.aafpfoundation.org).