Ohio anti-tobacco group forges on

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Ohio's anti-tobacco program would rather fight than switch strategies due to state budget cuts, so it's dipping into its endowment to maintain marketing efforts.

The Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation entered 2001 with a $330 million war chest from the national tobacco litigation settlement and state commitments to build a $1 billion fund in a state with the fourth-highest percentage of adult smokers in the U.S.

But legislators have since "borrowed" $350 million of planned subsequent payments, including the entire 2004 appropriation. Even so, with its kitty now down to $310 million and likely to shrink further thanks to $38 million in 2004 spending, the foundation has decided to stick with spending plans aimed at reducing Ohio's smoking rates 15% by 2007.

"The board asked: `Should we do virtually nothing forever, or should we do something with the full recognition we probably won't be able to keep going forever?"' said Mike Renner, executive director of the foundation. "They decided to spend at a level that's going to make a difference."

The foundation aims to foster a youth movement against glamorization of smoking, said Don Perkins, chief creative officer of the foundation's agency, Northlich, Cincinnati, with efforts directed at parents and college-age smokers. A recent push included delivering petitions with 16,000 signatures asking Viacom's MTV to stop showing videos that glorify smoking. Another used radio ads in which teen advisers for the "Stand Ohio" campaign call executives of MTV and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment to ask them to stop showing smoking in videos.

other venues

"We'll stay with MTV but broaden to other venues," said Mr. Perkins. Teens who watch five or more hours a week of MTV are 18% more likely than average to smoke and 16 times more likely to view smoking positively, according to Northlich research.

"We did get a letter from [MTV] acknowledging they're listening," said Northlich President Rick Miller. "They don't want to be censors, obviously."

Northlich also created on spec a "You Smoke. They Smoke" TV ad targeting parents, in which a mom takes a drag on a cigarette at the breakfast table and her daughter exhales the smoke. The foundation later OK'd and paid for the ad.

The foundation, moreover, is developing a pilot program for a statewide effort to combat smoking on college campuses.

A Research Triangle Institute survey recently found 39% unaided and 86% aided recall of the "Stand" campaign among Ohio youths age 11 to 17. RTI found adult smoking rates in Ohio declined from 27.7% to 26% since the campaign began in 2001. A separate state study found a decline from 33.4% to 25.7% in high-school age smoking rates between 2000 and 2002.

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