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Local student “tombstone” demonstration to target “big tobacco”

SIMCOE, ON, MARCH 22, 2007 – Students at Simcoe Composite School and Holy Trinity Catholic High School will be greeted by a rather grave scene as they arrive for classes this Wednesday (March 28). Forty-four tombstone replicas will be placed outside each school at about 8 a.m. to represent the number of people in Ontario who die every day from a tobacco-related illness.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Youth Action Alliance (YAA) is hoping the display will alert teens to the devastating impact of tobacco use, says Josh Daley, Youth Advisor for the YAA at the Health Unit.

“The activity is a great youth-led, youth-driven opportunity for members of our YAA to influence their peers to make wise decisions about tobacco use,” Daley said. “Also, the group gets to inform other teens about how the tobacco industry targets them as potential customers.”

Titled “Die Another Way,” the event coincides with International Kick Butts Day, a day when youth around the globe attempt to educate other youth about the dangers of using tobacco industry products.

The local Health Unit launched the Youth Action Alliance last year. The semi-autonomous group consists of one youth advisor and six students, called peer leaders, from various Norfolk County high schools. The group subsequently adopted the name Fresh Heir and is dedicated to “clearing up big tobacco for this generation and the next” through various community events and campaigns.

In addition to viewing the tombstones, students will have a chance to sign a guestbook and leave comments on their thoughts about the tobacco industry, or complete a scavenger hunt based on information found on the tombstones. A prize will be awarded randomly to a few people who complete either of these tasks.

Although the event is aimed at the students, passers-by will also get a view of the demonstration.

“By putting the tombstones in front of the school, we hope to create a buzz in the community as well as in the school,” said Peer Leader Monica Fess.

The main message of the event, that 44 Ontarians die every day from tobacco-related illnesses, is pertinent to the youth because 90 per cent of all smokers take up the habit during their teenage years.

“The annual loss of more than 16,000 lives in this province serves as a motivation for our group, as we understand the significance of this statistic to our generation,” stated Peer Leader Daina Atkinson. “We are not against smokers or tobacco farmers. We are against the commercial tobacco industry that relentlessly attempts to lure young people into using its products in order to replace all of its dying customers.”

Fresh Heir is always looking for volunteers of all ages to assist with its events and to help spread the group’s message throughout Norfolk County. Fresh Heir is also planning to expand soon into Haldimand County. People in either county interested in volunteering may contact the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623.

Media contact:
Josh Daley, Youth Advisor
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3276 [email protected]