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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

State unveils website targeting youth smoking

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff

Who knew public health could be so hip?

State authorities tomorrow will unveil a glowing, gyrating website called the84.org that's targeted at adolescents, with film clips of antismoking ads made by kids, and an invitation to "peep" or see the winners. It's designed to dissuade youths from smoking -- and to encourage them to quit if they've already started.

The website is part of a broader campaign by the state Department of Public Health that also includes awarding about $200,000 to 18 organizations committed to the fight against teen smoking.

So why call the website the84.org?

"Because 84 percent of teenagers in school don't smoke," said John Auerbach, the state's public health commissioner. "This came from the young people themselves. The impression many young people have is that the majority of teenagers smoke.

"They felt it was important to have a name that suggested the vast majority of young people don't smoke -- that the norm is not smoking."

State statistics show that 7.1 percent of middle-school students and 20.7 percent of high-school students have smoked in the past month.

The effort to reduce youth smoking is the first initiative to benefit from increased funding the Legislature committed to tobacco control this year. The program's budget grew from $8.25 million in the last budget year to $12.75 million this year. Still, that's a small fraction of what the state spent in 2000, when the budget stood at a high of $54.3 million.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 06:23 PM
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