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FOR RELEASE: April 13, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Oklahoma TAR WARS Poster Contest Ceremony Set

Sixty-eight fifth-graders from around the state who submitted poster designs as part of the Oklahoma TAR WARS Program Poster Contest, will be honored at an awards ceremony at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, 1141 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City. The awards ceremony will be Tues., April 25, at 10 a.m. in the school auditorium.

TAR WARS, a program of the American Academy of Family Physicians, is a national and statewide tobacco use prevention and education program for fifth grade students administered in Oklahoma by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The program provides classroom presentations using community volunteers, including physicians and other health care professionals, who focus on tobacco hazards and targeted marketing of tobacco to youth. As part of the program, schools host a poster contest with the winning entry submitted to the state contest.

"We are fortunate that about 368 elementary schools from around the state viewed tobacco use prevention among young people as a priority health concern and chose to participate in TAR WARS, said J.R. Nida, M.D., commissioner of health. "Fifth grade students from these schools learned about the short-term consequences of tobacco use, the reasons people smoke, and the truth about tobacco advertising and marketing toward youth."

Nationally, health officials estimate that more than 3,000 young people begin to smoke each day and that about 1,000 of them will die prematurely as a result. In Oklahoma, 42 percent of high school students and 21 percent of middle school students are current users of tobacco products. This is substantially higher than the national rates. TAR WARS attempts to reach young children at the elementary school level with tobacco use prevention messages.

All poster contest entries will be recognized, and the top 12 poster finalists will receive awards and prizes. The host schools for the top three finalists will also be honored and receive a special tobacco use prevention program for their curriculum. The grand prize winner will receive an all-expense paid trip July 13 - 15 to the National TAR WARS Poster Contest to be held in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Family Health Foundation of Oklahoma. Second through seventh place winners will receive a bicycle; eighth and ninth place winners will receive a $200 U.S. Savings Bond; and tenth, eleventh and twelfth place winners will receive $50 gift certificates. All prizes are donated by local businesses and organizations.

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