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'The Extinguisher' out to stop kids from smoking

by Darlene J. Taylor

STAFF WRITER

Teens Against Tobacco Use of Harrison County is bringing the American Medical Association anti-tobacco superhero, "The Extinguisher," to third-grade students throughout the county all next week, culminating with an appearance next Saturday at Meadowbrook Mall.

The masked and caped superhero will tell more than 800 students to believe in their own powers and not be misled by the tactics of tobacco advertisers during his visits to 12 elementary schools.

He will be accompanied by Dr. Nola Know, a world-renowned scientist and inventor who helps The Extinguisher fight tobacco use.

"He tells kids that they can turn the tide against a killer that entices more than one million kids to start smoking every year," said Delia Naranjo, Harrison County Medical Society Alliance health projects coordinator.

Third- and fourth-graders who saw The Extinguisher when he made an appearance here in 1998 understood his message.

"I will never smoke or chew tobacco because it can hurt your body and you might die, too," said Ben Gerrard, then a third-grader at Adamston Elementary School. "I don't want to waste my life like that."

Another student wrote, "It can kill you or harm you. My dad smokes and chews tobacco and my mom smokes. I wish they would stop. I love you, Mom and Dad."

The alliance works with Teens Against Tobacco Use in coordinating events; the high school groups develop initiatives and presentations related to tobacco prevention, Naranjo said.

The Extinguisher will discuss nicotine, addiction and prevention again next Saturday at the mall.

He will arrive at the mall at noon. The first 100 children will receive an Extinguisher T-shirt.

Sandra Fain is spokesman for the Lincoln High School Teens Against Tobacco Use group. She said the group's goal is to get to kids before they ever use tobacco.

"Our chances are best if we can convince them never to start. The young children look up to the older students, and it also increases the self-esteem of the high school kids," Fain said.

Since 1997, The Extinguisher has appeared at more than 200 events for more than 750,000 children.

Staff writer Darlene Taylor can be by reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at dtaylor@exponent-telegram.com.

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