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Student “tombstone” tobacco demonstration cancelled

SIMCOE, ON, MARCH 26, 2007 – Two student-led demonstrations scheduled for this Wednesday (March 28) to alert teens to the devastating impact of tobacco use have been cancelled.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Youth Action Alliance (YAA) had planned to erect 44 tombstone replicas at Simcoe Composite School and Holy Trinity Catholic High School but the youth group has encountered some opposition. The tombstones were created to serve as a memorial to the number of people in Ontario who die every day from a tobacco-related illness.

“After the Simcoe Reformer printed our advance news release, both schools received sentiments of opposition from inside and outside the schools about the demonstrations and we have decided not to embarrass or inconvenience anyone by proceeding on school grounds,” explained Josh Daley, Youth Advisor for the YAA at the Health Unit. “We will be regrouping and looking at the possibility of holding the demonstration elsewhere at a later date. It’s an important issue and we’re not giving up on it.”

Daley said the difficult struggle local tobacco farmers are having in their bid to secure an exit package may be making people extra sensitive, but emphasized “these demonstrations were not being directed against farmers. This is not an agricultural issue. It’s strictly an issue of public health and corporate responsibility.”

He said the demonstrations were designed “to focus on the commercial tobacco industry, which tries to lure young people into using tobacco products in order to replace all of its dying customers. Youth education is important because 90 per cent of all smokers take up the habit during their teenage years and we know the tobacco industry is targeting young people.”

The local Health Unit launched the Youth Action Alliance last year. The 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.

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