Friday, November 19, 1999
Panel weighs anti-smoking plan
Teens say they haven't seen 'Loserville' ads
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS As lawmakers heard arguments Thursday for programs to keep kids from smoking, two high school seniors told reporters they had never seen any of the state's anti-smoking Welcome to Loserville billboards.
Beth Leedy, a senior at Lakota East High School in West Chester, said the concept sounded good to her despite not having seen one of the 343 billboards erected in 11 counties beginning in April.
Beth, 17, said the state needs a two-prong approach to reducing child tobacco use: aggressive advertising and programs that expose children to positive role models.
We need both, to see signs and billboards everywhere and have interactions with students who aren't smoking and doing drugs, she said.
Dan Moss, 17, a senior at Fairfield High School, spoke along with Beth before the House Finance Committee on Thursday.
The committee continued hearings on a plan for spending Ohio's $10.1 billion share of the national tobacco settlement.
Finance Chairman Robert Corbin, R-Dayton, said he planned additional hearings followed by a vote early next month.
Ohio erected the Loserville ads each featuring a teen smoking under the banner Welcome to Loserville as part of a first phase of the national tobacco settle ment.
The campaign wasn't meant to be comprehensive, said Attorney General Betty Montgomery.
If we could end or reduce tobacco smoking with 300 billboards, I believe this legislature wouldn't have a hard time supporting it, she said.
None of the billboards was erected in the areas where the two students live, said Chris Davey, a spokesman for the attorney general.
Ms. Montgomery told finance committee members she supported the 25-year spending plan crafted by Gov. Bob Taft's Tobacco Task Force.
The Senate last month reduced the plan to 12 years, saying 25 was too long a time period to set spending priorities.
Matt Myers, executive vice president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, urged lawmakers to support a proposed $1.5 billion Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund.
He said proven anti-smoking campaigns have reduced child and adult smoking rates in Florida, Massachusetts, Arizona, Oregon and California, where the smoking rate fell from 26.7 percent to 18.1 percent from 1988 to 1996.
He warned lawmakers to beware of model legislation being offered to states by tobacco companies that sends the message that it's wrong to smoke as a youth but OK to smoke as an adult.
Pam Hubbard of Cleveland's Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program illustrated the reach of youth marketing by showing lawmakers cigarette lighters in the shape of a cellular phone and a pager.
If it's illegal to be selling tobacco products to youth, why would you be selling toys to light tobacco products? she said.
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