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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS : PROPOSITION 188 : Educator Recants Her Ads Backing Measure


SACRAMENTO — Declaring she is committed to ensuring "the public health of all citizens," a public school educator who stars in a TV ad for Proposition 188 recanted her testimonial Thursday on behalf of the tobacco industry initiative.

"Obviously, if I could turn back the clock, the commercial would never have been made," said nonsmoker Nancy Frick, a vice principal at a Kern County middle school.

In a prepared statement released by opponents of the measure, Frick said producers of the TV spot agreed to pull it off the air effective Thursday.

Proposition 188 critics, who had deplored the ad, immediately hailed Frick's decision.

"It is reassuring that a teacher, a role model for children, would have the courage to admit she made a mistake," said Carolyn Martin, a teacher and co-chair of the No on 188 campaign.

Ads for the initiative indicate that it would place new restrictions on smoking, but in fact it would repeal 150 local ordinances on the books now that generally are tougher on smokers. The ballot measure, if passed, would supersede local ordinances, and could force repeal of a new statewide law that is more stringent than the initiative.

Proposition 188's backers include cigarette maker Philip Morris U.S.A. It is opposed by a coalition of health groups, including the California branch of the American Lung Assn.

Lee Stitzenberger, strategist for the Yes on 188 campaign, said that after a story about the ad appeared in Wednesday's editions of The Times, Frick was inundated with harassing telephone calls. "I know they (opponents) put her through hell," he said.

But Stitzenberger said sponsors agreed to remove the TV commercials, along with similar radio spots featuring Frick, so that the educator can once again "enjoy peace and calm" in her life.

"They (opponents) tried to shoot the messenger," he said, dismissing the flap over the commercial as insignificant. He said the campaign's stated theme--to stop minors from gaining access to tobacco--still will be delivered during the final days before the Nov. 8 election.

Stepping up its campaign, the tobacco industry began airing the ad in Los Angeles on Monday, with Frick pitching Proposition 188 as the best defense against minors' use of tobacco.

In the spot, Frick says she has worked with children for 24 years. "I know what motivates them, and I understand the way they think. I want to stop kids from smoking. Proposition 188 will do that."

Stitzenberger said that Frick was a friend of someone in the Proposition 188 campaign and that her husband had been featured in an earlier campaign mailer.

"As a nonsmoker, my decision was based on my belief at the time that a statewide, uniform smoking policy would be in the public interest. I was mistaken," Frick said in her statement.

Frick could not be reached at Mountain View Middle School in Lamont.

Paul Knepprath, a spokesman for the drive against Proposition 188, denied that Frick was badgered into changing her mind about the commercial. He said his group spoke with Frick only after she had decided to try to get the ads taken off the air.

John Chavez, superintendent of the 2,600-student district in Lamont, said Frick had called him to ask if she could appear in the ads. Chavez said he told Frick that she could do what she wanted as an individual.

But Wednesday, Chavez said, Frick changed her mind. Chavez said that he received 10 to 15 complaints after he was quoted in The Times and that if Frick received similar calls they "could be construed as harassment."

But, Chavez added, Frick reversed herself when "she realized, like I did, that Proposition 188 is a weaker position" than the new state law that goes into effect Jan. 1. "All we care about is that we don't want kids to smoke."

* SMOKING BAN DELAYED: Santa Monica City Council delays ban because of Prop. 188. B1

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