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FOR RELEASE: August 2, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Oklahomans Win National Awards for Tobacco Use Prevention

Two Oklahomans have won national honors for their activities in the Oklahoma TAR WARS program, an interactive, educational tobacco use prevention program for fifth-grade students. Leah Norsworthy, a fifth-grader from Choctaw, won first place in the 2001 national TAR WARS poster contest. Oklahoma State TAR WARS Coordinator Tom Nash won the Star Award for excellence in leadership and service.

Norsworthy, age 11, received an all-expense paid trip for a family of four to Disney World in Florida worth up to $3,000. The theme of her poster was “Smoking—No Time For It, Places To Go…Things To Discover…” and the artwork featured a young girl snorkeling while observing underwater sealife. Her entry and 50 others were winners from their state or territory contests. Oklahoma has placed in the top five poster contest winners over the last nine years and has consistently done better than any other state in the poster competitions.

TAR WARS Oklahoma State Coordinator Tom Nash was awarded the STAR Award in Washington, D.C. from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) TAR WARS Advisory Board of Directors, for excellence in leadership, service and coordination of the Oklahoma program since 1992. Nash has served on the national advisory board the past 10 years.

“I am pleased to see Oklahoma receive recognition for the TAR WARS program,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “Our success is due mainly to the partnership that occurs between local fifth grade school teachers and the healthcare professionals and other community volunteers throughout the state who present the curriculum. I hope the news of these national award winners will encourage even more schools and volunteers to participate next year.”

TAR WARS, a program of the American Academy of Family Physicians, is a statewide tobacco use prevention and education program for fifth grade students administered by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. TAR WARS is designed to help youth learn the short-term consequences of tobacco use, the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke, and the fact that 75 percent of people do not smoke. It also focuses on tobacco industry advertising and marketing tactics that directly influence 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 users of tobacco products, making early prevention efforts even more important.

Schools and volunteers interested in participating in the state TAR WARS program should contact Tom Nash with the OSDH Tobacco Use Prevention program at 405/271-3619.

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