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Ohio Steps Up Anti-Smoking Effort

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CHICAGO The Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation is launching a mobile version of its "Debunkify" media campaign.

Foundation vans will visit the state's back-to-school college crowd, parking near campus bars and satisfying late-night cravings by dispensing pizza slices in branded boxes.

In keeping with the tagline "Kill the myths, before they kill you," the van crews will try to correct misperceptions such as Ohioans' overestimation about the number of smokers and the underestimation about the dangers of second-hand smoke. Those two notions were discovered from foundation focus groups and case study findings.

Actually, 80 percent of Ohioans don't smoke, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and second-hand smoke kills one nonsmoker every 10 minutes, according to a California EPA report. The Surgeon General recently confirmed the deadly effects of second-hand smoke. The van also will reach the high school graduate, straight-to-work crowd with stops at factories in the mornings with coffee and donuts and during the lunch hour with more food.

"Believing false information encourages Ohio kids to use tobacco," Sarah Cooper, a foundation student mentor, said in a statement. "The more of their peers they believe smoke, the more likely they are to start smoking, too."

"Debunkify" launched in June as a grassroots campaign with teen teams anonymously planting orange cutouts of people, removable orange stickers and chalk outlines in high traffic areas around the state. Outdoor and transit ads eventually appeared, followed by the July debut of myth-busting site www.Debunkify.com. Providing additional support were last week's airing of two television spots created by Northlich, an agency with offices in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.

The overall media campaign theme is "Stand."

One spot illustrates the threat of second-hand smoke by showing a snake slithering from the smoking to the nonsmoking section of a diner. The second spot shows models in orange gowns pointing out in game show fashion the legions of nonsmokers around us.

A 2001 Tobacco Free Kids report found that all but three states (Tennessee, Michigan and North Carolina) and Washington, D.C., were using money from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement for some kind of tobacco prevention activity. That agreement settled lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers by states that sued for reimbursement of Medicaid payments made to sick smokers. Also, about 26 states have a paid media campaign for smoking prevention, according to American Legacy Foundation estimates.

An independent 2006 survey over a three-year period commissioned by the Ohio foundation found that youths who identified with the "Stand" campaign when first surveyed were 34 percent less likely to try smoking two years later.