Students attend tobacco awareness conference in Denver

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Five Craig Middle School students traveled to Denver to learn about advertising lies propagated by the tobacco industry, said Get R!EAL adult sponsor Kathy Bockelman.

Karli Bockelman, Jackie Cabrera, Leticia Duarte, Katie Kinkead, and Clara Stiefel attended the two-day summit held at Denver University.

The purpose of the summit, said Kathy Bockelman, was "to arm teens with the skills and information they need to make educated choices about tobacco." The purpose was not to malign smokers, but to teach teens to resist and expose the tobacco industry's tactics.

"The tobacco industry is targeting younger customers as older ones die," Kathy Bockelman said.

Craig's Get R!EAL group is funded by two grants from the Colorado Department of Public Health, Kathy Bockleman said. The money was derived from settlements against the tobacco industry.

Clara Stiefel, 12, who joined the group about a month ago, said, "I wanted to get more involved in Get R!EAL. I wanted to go to Denver to learn more about it."

Stiefel said teens are drawn to tobacco because they think it makes them cool or skinny or more attractive to people.

Stiefel attended 3 two-hour classes at the summit. In one class, titled "Smokey Chokey Karaoke," the teens rewrote popular song lyrics with messages about the dangers of tobacco use.

In another class, the participants made signs about "tobacco lies" and posted the signs on streets and sidewalks, Stiefel said.

The purpose of the summit, Stiefel said, was to educate teens about the tobacco companies' lies, and to teach teens how to spread that message to others.

Leticia Duarte, 13, said her favorite part of the summit was performing her group's karaoke Saturday night at the summit's closing barbecue.

Duarte took an online class during the summit in which she said she helped design a Get R!EAL logo that will be put on the Get R!EAL Web site, at www.getrealcolorado.com.

Kathy Bockelman attended some adult workshops at the summit. Among her concerns, she said, is the role of tobacco as a gateway

drug.

"Kids are much more likely to use other drugs after tobacco," she said.

Kathy Bockelman also is concerned about the issue of second-hand smoke. During the school year, Craig's Get R!EAL conducted an informal survey that showed that 37 percent of middle school and high school students live in homes with a smoker.

Future projects for the group include a campaign against local tobacco advertising.

"One of the things we're concerned about is the (Infinity Cigarette) signs at Kum and Go," said Kathy Bockelman.

She pointed out that part of the tobacco companies' master settlement is an agreement not to use billboards larger than 14 square feet. Get R!EAL plans to photograph and measure Infinity Cigarette signs at Kum and Go stores in Craig.

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