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Smoking pledge really pays off

Chris Hunsley
Northern News Services

Tsiigehtchic (June 13/05) - A promise never to light up brought Travis Andre a sports package that is sure to keep his lungs pumping and blood flowing.

Winner of the Don't Be a Butthead, Be Smoke Free contest draw May 31, the 11-year-old took home a $1,000 sports package that included a bicycle, helmet, trampoline, volleyball set and basketball net.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Travis Andre, with his dad Mickey, stands in a truckload of sporting goods he collected Friday in Inuvik as the winner of the Don't Be a Butthead, Be Smoke Free contest.

"So far the trampoline is my favourite," he said.

Approximately 2,100 children aged eight to 14 from across the territory pledged to avoid the evil weed as part of a department of Health and Social Services' campaign. Each received a T-shirt and certificate of congratulations from Health Minister Michael Miltenberger.

Summer Desjarlais of Mildred Hall school in Yellowknife won a $1,000 electronics package after last month's draw while Nathan Scheper of Harry Camsell school in Hay River and Brandon Grandjambe of Chief T'Selehye school in Fort Good Hope won similar prize packages in a January draw.

"It was a big success," said Kathy Fibish Mercure, spokesperson for the campaign. "We were only expecting 500 entries so we were absolutely thrilled."

Travis, who has never smoked, said that after reading about all the nasty illnesses that come from smoking, he doesn't plan to start.

"The students were fascinated there are more than 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette," said Judy Bishop, a teacher at Chief Paul Niditchie school in Tsiigehtchic where 24 students made pledges for the campaign.

With hands-on displays, videos and the Don't Be a Butthead website, students learned that such products as tar and nail polish are used in cigarette production.

Students could see how smoking affected each part of the body like the lungs and the heart, said Bishop.

Some students even took their lessons home with them.

"They talked to their parents about it and now the kids don't want smoking in the house," she said.

Don't Be a Butthead is complete, but organizers will be back in action this fall with a new campaign.