Teens Say No to Tobacco at SIUH North


Staten Island kids aim to snuff out smoking

Published: Monday, June 06, 2011, 5:29 AM     Updated: Monday, June 06, 2011, 5:32 AM
Jodi Lee Reifer
Photo Courtesy of Patti Boustany
Samantha Salerno, a sixth-grader at Lavelle Preparatory Charter School, was among about 40 children who urged community leaders to fight in-store tobacco marketing toward kids during a demonstration last week at Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Borough teens are kicking butt at raising awareness about the dangers of smoking.

The sixth annual Staten Island Kids Against Tobacco Film Festival unspools Saturday at Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC), West Brighton.

The fest comes less than a week after another crew of kids demonstrated against Big Tobacco’s kid-targeted advertising on World No Tobacco Day at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), Ocean Breeze.

To be sure, 15.5 percent of Island public high school students described themselves as smokers, compared to 8.4 percent of the city’s total public high school population, according to the city Health Department Youth Risk Behavior Survey, last taken in 2009.

“The average age for a person to start smoking is between the ages of 12 and 14,” said Dr. Cynthia Wong, coordinator of the Staten Island Kids Against Tobacco Campaign (KATC), producer of the film festival. “[This] serves an important opportunity for young people to spread the message against smoking to their peers.”

The flick forum will showcase five original shorts produced by more than 40 students from Port Richmond, Tottenville and Staten Island Technical high schools. The teens wrote, acted in and produced each movie.

The films screen from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in RUMC’s Sipp Auditorium, with a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the hospital’s conference rooms A and B.

Screening soon are: “No Smoking Public Service Announcement,” a comedic tale about a teenage girl being romanced by her boyfriend dressed as a giant cigarette; “Different Situation, Same Addiction,” a look at smoking’s global impact; “Leaving It All Behind,” a tragedy told through music and dance, all of which were produced by Staten Island Tech.

Also showing is “My First and Last Mistake,” the tale of a teen who wants to be cool, coming from Tottenville High School; “T-O-B-A-C-C-O,” a rap video produced at Port Richmond High, and “Sooner or Later Smoke Kills, Period,” created by medical students who tell the story of how two lives were forever changed by smoking.

The film fest will also feature a live performance of “If I Ruled The World,” as seen in the video, “T-O-B-A-C-C-O,” by Port Richmond High’s Devon Lee.

The KATC is a community outreach program developed by RUMC and Staten Island Community Television. The film fest is also sponsored by ASSIST Cessation Center.


At the SIUH event, about 40 students proclaimed they no longer want to be targeted by in-store tobacco marketing.

“We know that tobacco companies spend the bulk of their marketing budgets at local stores where tobacco products and information is prominently displayed often in close proximity to candy, gum and other youth products,” said Adrienne Abbate, manager of the Staten Island Smoke-free Partnership. “We may not notice it, but the kids do.”

Wearing blindfolds, the children gathered last week in the Clock Tower Courtyard of the Ocean Breeze campus of SIUH. They said unless community leaders and store owners enforce change, wearing a blindfold will be the only way for kids to avoid Big Tobacco’s reach.

The blindfold concept came from the New York state Tobacco Control Program. To drive their point home, the children wrote messages such as “I will not be bought” and “let’s make a difference” on their hands.

Participating were students from Lavelle Preparatory Charter School; Staten Island Tech, Tottenville and New Dorp high schools; PS 30 as well as Notre Dame and St. Joseph Hill academies.

The demonstration was coordinated by Take Care Staten Island Tobacco Workgroup, which is comprised of the Staten Island Smoke-free Partnership, Staten Island University Hospital, JCC Reality Check, Staten Island Mental Health Society, American Cancer Society, Staten Island Heart Society and Sundog Theatre. Take Care Staten Island is funded by The Staten Island Foundation.

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