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Paden City’s Heasley Wins National Competition

By Staff | Oct 9, 2008

Zach Heasley of Paden City shows off the poster he made that won the Tar Wars national poster contest. The artwork with a railroad theme encourages people to “CHOO! CHOOse to be Tobacco Free.”

Zach Heasley, a fifth-grader from Paden City, was named the 2008 Tar Wars national poster contest winner July 21 at a ceremony during the Tar Wars National Conference in Washington, D.C. As the national poster contest winner, Heasley receives a family trip to Disney World worth up to $3,000.

The Paden City Council honored Heasley at its regular meeting Sept. 8 and asked him to lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Tar Wars, a tobacco-free education program administered by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) that increases students’ awareness of attitudes about tobacco use and the effects of tobacco on the body. Since it was established in 1988, Tar Wars has reached more than 8 million children with its tobacco-free message.

The Tar Wars program culminates with its annual poster contest, which encourages children to create posters that emphasize the positive aspects of not using tobacco.

In addition to Heasley, three runners-up, six honorable mentions, and the state-level poster contest winners were recognized at the awards ceremony. All state winners in attendance received a prize packet and a savings bond.

Runners-up were second place, Ryan Ann Cothron, Lafayette, Tenn.; third place, Glen Nolte, Anniston, Ala.; fourth place: Logan Gage Ruppard, Glade Valley, N.C.

Honorable mentions were fifth place, Margaux Fontaine, Cumberland, R.I.; sixth place, Donald Bough, Loogootee, Ind.; seventh place, Kaitlyn DeBoard, Wilmington, Ohio; eighth place, August Parker, Heidelberg, Miss.; ninth place, Emilee Leger, Lafayette, La.; and tenth place, Enrique Chavez, La Vista, Neb.

The winning posters were chosen from 39 entries, all winners of state-level Tar Wars poster contests. Posters were judged on their artistry, creativity, originality, and their ability to communicate a clear and positive message about being tobacco-free.

Digital images of all winning posters can be downloaded from www.tarwars.org. Poster artwork is also displayed in schools and is reproduced on promotional items available at www.tarwars.org.

In addition to recognizing poster contest winners, the Tar Wars National Conference allows students to voice their opinions about tobacco use and tobacco legislation to their congressional leaders during visits to Capitol Hill.

Tar Wars is the only youth tobacco education program offered at this time by a medical specialty organization in the United States and reaches approximately 500,000 students annually. Family physicians and health care professionals present Tar Wars programs to fourth- and fifth-graders in their local schools.

Tar Wars was developed in 1988 by Jeff Cain, M.D., and Glenna Pember of the Hall of Life at the Denver Museum of Natural History and Doctors Ought to Care (DOC). Cain said the intention of the program was to counteract the messages created in tobacco advertising by using some of the industry’s own tactics.

“While the tobacco industry uses advertising to manipulate potential users by making smoking appear sexy, glamorous, and cool, Tar Wars uses images to emphasize short-term consequences of tobacco use to show why not smoking is actually sexy, glamorous, and cool,” Cain said.

Cain said that most of the anti-smoking messages at the time were focused on stressing the long-term health effects, and while that message is important, he said it is not necessarily the most effective with young people. Children tend to form their views about tobacco use between the ages of 12 and 14, an age when Cain said they are much more concerned with image and what happens in their immediate lives.

In the Tar Wars program, family physicians and health care professionals talk with youth about how tobacco makes one’s breath smell and how smoking can impair one’s ability to be active and play sports. The students also learn about practical issues, such as how much it costs to use tobacco for a week, a month, a year, and over a lifetime.

In its first year, Family Medicine residents, school nurses, and teachers delivered the Tar Wars curriculum to 7,000 Denver fifth-graders. The next year the program went state-wide, and was expanded across the Rocky Mountain region in 1991.

In 1993, a national training conference was held to spread the Tar Wars program across the United States and the AAFP endorsed Tar Wars as a national program. With representation from throughout the United States, a national board was formed the same year to help expand the program’s effectiveness, goals, and vision.

“We wanted people running it in each state to see it as their own program. True success is not accomplished by what you do with your own hands, it’s what lives on in the work and lives of others,” Cain said.

The AAFP has overseen the program since 1997 and has promoted Tar Wars to AAFP members locally, nationally, and internationally. Tar Wars has been presented in all 50 states as well as in Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.