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Smokeout' event dances on the issue of tobacco use

PLATTSBURGH - Thirty-five years have passed since the original Great American Smokeout was created by the American Cancer Society, yet kids and teenagers are still bombarded with marketing of tobacco products.

According to New York's Tobacco Use Prevention and Control, tobacco companies spent $12.5 billion on advertising in 2006 alone. That's $8 billion more than junk food and soda companies, and more than $9 billion from alcohol companies.

"Our young people are seeing too much tobacco advertising, particularly in stores ... and that does affect them and it does cause them to start smoking," explained Karen Derusha of the Adirondack Tobacco Free Network.

To get the general public aware of this issue, Derusha worked with the American Cancer Society, Colleges 4 Change, and Colleges Against Cancer to host a flash mob at Champlain Centre Mall, called Stepping out Against Tobacco.

The flash mob - which is a spontaneous gathering of people who perform an action and then disperse - was held Nov. 18 and began with dancer Nathaniel Marshall dancing his way across the floor in front of Gander Mountain at the mall.

Eventually more dancers came on the scene, with the end result showcasing 20 dancers. To bring attention to the effects of smoking, the dancers ended the two-minute show with Britney Spears' "Toxic," began coughing and eventually fell to the ground. Afterwards some of the dancers stood up and warned the public of the hazards of tobacco use.

"We had just seen another group that had done [a flash mob] and we thought it would be a cool idea and a great way to promote this particular topic," Derusha said.

Although she was skeptical of how big the crowd of spectators would be during an afternoon in the middle of the week, Derusha said the crowd was "pretty good."

"I think we got the effect we were looking for," she said. "I think people were a little surprised and we caught their attention."

The act was videotaped by Media Central and will be shown at future events, including Plattsburgh's annual Relay for Life.

The dancers also performed the flash mob earlier that day at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh for the college students, with positive results.

"I think we'll definitely be replicating this a few more times," said Derusha.

For more information about ATFN, call 565-4993.

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