Hutch News Stories

Tackling tobacco use

CHAT study researchers use tobacco-settlement funds to discourage college students from smoking
Jennifer Hymer, left, and Shametrice Davis
Jennifer Hymer, left, and Shametrice Davis, of the Cancer Prevention Research Program in the Public Health Sciences Division, display a smoker's lung, left, and a healthy lung, used to demonstrate the dangers of tobacco. Photo by Todd McNaught

Researchers in the center's Campus Health Action on Tobacco Study (CHAT) will enhance its battle on tobacco use among college students through two projects funded by a multi-state lawsuit settlement with major tobacco companies.

The two grants are part of an anti-tobacco education program created with a portion of the $4.5 billion in proceeds received by Washington state from settlement of the suit, which was filed in 1996. The Seattle and King County Tobacco Prevention Program of the Washington State Department of Health sponsors the grants.

One of two $1,000 grants awarded to the CHAT Study funds a presentation by Rick Bender, a tobacco education activist and oral-cancer survivor. The first engagement took place last Tuesday at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. The other grant will be used to sponsor a tobacco counter-advertising campaign, with entries submitted by design majors at Cornish.

Cornish is one of 30 colleges in Washington, Oregon and Idaho that participate in the CHAT Study, which conducts research designed to decrease the number of students that use tobacco and increase cessation rates. Fifteen of the intervention colleges will conduct at least nine tobacco-education activities over the course of two years to determine whether such interventions elicit changes in students' habits and attitudes regarding tobacco use. Dr. Beti Thompson of the Public Health Sciences Division is principal investigator of the study, which is funded primarily by the National Cancer Institute.

Bender, who calls himself "The Man Without a Face," started chewing tobacco at age 12 and was diagnosed with cancer at age 26. He has endured numerous operations and has lost a third of his tongue, half of his jaw and all of the tissue on the right side of his neck. Today, the 41-year-old former semi-pro baseball player from Roundup, Mont., travels throughout the United States to share his story and educate people of all ages about the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

For the counter-advertising campaign, 30 Cornish design students will create ad campaigns that emphasize topics including health risks, addictiveness and manipulative marketing practices of the tobacco industry. A judging panel consisting of CHAT Study staff and representatives from the Seattle and King Country Tobacco Prevention Program will award $500 for the first-place submission and two $250 awards to the runners up. The three winning ad campaigns will be reproduced and distributed to the other CHAT Study intervention campuses. All ad campaign submissions will be displayed at a formal reception at 7 p.m. on April 29 in the new PHS building.

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