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Valley Focus | Van Nuys

Anti-Smoking Effort Underway at School

July 14, 1998|MICHAEL BAKER

A state-funded program designed to instruct kids in the art of teaching their peers that tobacco isn't cool kicked off Monday afternoon at Van Nuys High School.

"Students seem to have more of an effect on their peers," said John Cannell, a teacher advisor for the Senior High School Division of the Los Angeles Unified School District. "Youngsters don't always relate to a 60-year-old teacher like they do to those the same age."

Under the Teens Against Tobacco Use program, a school generally receives $35,000 to $45,000 to set up and maintain the project, depending on enrollment, Cannell said. About 55 LAUSD high schools and 80 middle schools are participating in the program.

Between 14% and 18% of the students in the district smoke, and according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,000 teens nationwide start smoking every day, Cannell said.

"It's important for kids to understand that the choices they make now will have consequences on their future health," said Tressa Sharbaugh, an educational career planning teacher who will coordinate the program at Van Nuys High. "I'm an ex-smoker myself. Once you stop, you realize how bad it was for you."

Students at Van Nuys will participate in another training session today, then start taking their message to their peers and younger students.

"Close friends of ours smoke, and sometimes it's hard for us to tell them the danger," senior-to-be Kimberly Garcia said. "We want to help our community and to make some of the kids aware of the dangers."

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