Students Warn of Smoking's Veiled Threat

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new billboard in Santa Ana, designed by two local eighth-graders, takes an unusual tack in bringing home the addictiveness of tobacco.

About three dozen students, teachers, and county officials watched Friday as Spurgeon Intermediate School students Nicole Pimentil, 14, and Erika Araujo, 13, removed a plastic veil from their art-project-turned-billboard.

It's a super-sized version of their painting of a man married to a wedding-gowned cigarette.

Pimentil, of Santa Ana, said they had two messages: "We wanted to show the world that if two eighth-graders can get the message, adults should be able to too. We also wanted to show how dangerous it is to be married to cigarettes."

Araujo, also of Santa Ana, said she felt completing the billboard was an act of patriotism--and health officials agree.

"These two [girls] saw it as their duty," said Sherryl Ramos, a project coordinator with the Tobacco Use Prevention Program, which is part of the Orange County Health Care Agency.

County and school officials and students chose the girls' image from 150 submissions from Santa Ana schools. Officials said they hope the image will jolt smokers into thinking about their habit.

"A lot of the students see this in their own family and come to school and, I think, they are concerned about smoking and want to do something," said Mike Howard, an educational consultant who works for Santa Ana Unified School District and was closely related to the art project.

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