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New Play Encourages Youth to Avoid Tobacco

June 6, 2014

Middle school students are especially vulnerable to trying—and becoming addicted to— tobacco. Studies show the most common years for smoking a first cigarette are sixth and seventh grades, and nearly nine out of 10 smokers establish a daily habit by age 18. The majority of those teens go on to develop a lifelong tobacco addiction. That’s why a new play is reaching out to young people to encourage them to avoid tobacco. 

“Meet Ciggy Haveasmoke” is an original production developed by Tanner Health System’s Get Healthy, Live Well initiative with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The play educates youth about the importance of living tobacco-free and explores the dangers of smoking, while emphasizing that tobacco has a negative effect on a young person’s reputation and appearance.

The play could reach as many as 6,000 students at west Georgia middle schools with performances this spring and early next fall. The first performances will take place at Bowdon Middle School, Villa Rica Middle School and Bremen Middle School in May.

“It’s an innovative way to really get the attention of middle school students,” said Phyllis Head, community outreach coordinator at Tanner Health System. “We are looking to not only reach the kids, but also help them bring an important message home to their parents.”

The original script was written by Duane Sohl, a resident of Villa Rica who works in radio sales for Gradick Communications and serves on the Get Healthy, Live Well Anti-Tobacco Task Force. The play features three young local actors — Ginna Blair, Chayse Pannell and Sam Martin — who have extensive experience in community theater.

Sohl knows that teens are especially at risk for tobacco addiction. “Cigarettes took my mom and my uncle, and I’ve always thought if they had only not started smoking when they were kids, things would have been completely different,” Sohl said. “I wrote the play in hope that if I could get even one kid not to ever start smoking, it would be worth it.”

The play, which features a dying smoker in the hospital, takes a walk down memory lane to see what smoking has done to him during his life — from middle school when he starts smoking to adulthood when he can’t keep up with his children at Disney World.

An interactive presentation after the play invites questions from the audience and provides more detailed information about the dangers of using tobacco. The Get Healthy, Live Well staff will talk with students about Tanner Health System’s free resources to help people quit like Fresh Start tobacco cessation classes. Students will also receive a gift bag to bring home with more information.

The full script of the play is available here: Meet Ciggy Haveasmoke script.

To see photos from recent performances, click here.

If you or someone you know needs help quitting tobacco, Get Healthy, Live Well is also offering the Fresh Start tobacco cessation program. The free program includes three weekly classes which last about 30 minutes conveniently scheduled around most work hours. Classes are being held at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton, Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica and Higgins General Hospital. To view the schedule and sign up for a class, visit www.GetHealthyLiveWell.org or call 770.214.CARE.

If you have questions about these programs or Get Healthy, Live Well, please contact Gina Brandenburg, Program Manager for Get Healthy, Live Well at gbrandenburg@tanner.org or 770.836.9282.

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