On October 23, patients at the Residential Program in Venice, California gathered for a smoking prevention poster competition. Often those who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction turn to cigarettes as they are both legal and socially acceptable. But nicotine is an addictive toxin that causes thousands of deaths each year.
Program Director Akilah Templeton organized the project. “Smoking kills, just as other drugs kill,” she says. “We need to spread awareness of its dangers, especially in the recovery community. By working on their posters and presentations, men in treatment teach themselves and others about the harm of smoking. The most important result is that they and their friends are encouraged to make a decision to quit.”
The residents were paired up in teams or worked alone researching the negative effects of nicotine and smoking. 480,000 people die each year as a result of smoking and 16 million suffer from resulting illnesses. Cigarettes cause 90% of lung cancers and about 1/3 of all cancers. Illnesses associated with smoking are chronic bronchitis and emphysema and increased risk of heart disease. Smoking has also been linked to leukemia, cataracts, and pneumonia. Second-hand smoke is dangerous, too. In general, smoking shortens one’s life-span by about 10 years!
Six posters and presentations were adjudicated by a jury that included counselors, administrators, and facility nurse, Breek Sundry, who spoke of his efforts to help residents quit smoking. Each poster focused on a different aspect of the topic. Judges scored the posters and presentations on creativity, content, artistry, presentation, and overall impact. The winners’ creative poster encourages people to quit smoking via drawings and a collage of burnt cigarette stubs and tobacco leaves that spells out “Quit Smoking.” The poster also includes the pun “Cigarettes help you rest” beside a tombstone, which captured the attention of jurors.
Tying for second place were posters filled with many facts assembled into a chaotic collage of cut-out letters and pictures, and another conveying a simple brightly-colored message that includes a fragment of the Phoenix House philosophy: “Rise from the ashes of our defeat.” Another entrant made a Halloween-themed poster, and rightly so, since nicotine is a monster: a looming death in disguise. Even those who did not have the time or ability to create impressive artworks had a chance to speak and share their experiences with smoking and their resolve to quit.
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