According to a study conducted by SADD, an organization which provides student prevention tools to deal with issues such as smoking, drinking and other drug use, 50% of American young people have tried cigarettes by the 12th grade. Other statistics state that, four out of five adults who smoke say they tried their first cigarette before they turned 18. With such alarming and sky-high statistics such as these across the world, RADA acknowledged
the critical need to enhance the strategies used to discourage young people from harmful actions such as the use of tobacco products. As a result, RADA established a new approach towards increasing awareness by creating the annual Kids 4 Kids art contest.
Rather than relying on traditional fear-based advertisements and one-way communication, the Kids 4 Kids contest relies on three powerful concepts to teach children about oral cancer. Operating under the belief that “entertainment, engagement, and encouragement” are the ways to get youth to personally connect to smoking-related dangers, the contest lets kids from grades 1 through 8 create the concepts themselves. Participants are invited to use art as a form of expressing anti-smoking sentiments, drawing their own images and pictures based on what they can relate to.
An example of the effectiveness this contest has on children’s perception of smoking is one winner’s drawing, where a girl walking down the road of life comes across a wall of smoke, the message in the clouds saying, “We Can’t See The Future.” The messages were reinforced by the extraordinarily talented young entertainers from The Children’s Acting Company, who gave us seven sensational performances and revealed the winners of the contest. Their hard work was evident, as they seamlessly transformed old favorites into relevant renditions and dazzled us with their voices and dance moves. Their take on Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” was truly inspiring, with lyrics, “They tried to make me smoke a cigarette, I said, No, no, no/ Yes I know you’re cool but I am not a fool, so no, no, no/ I ain’t got the time and I think I’m just fine/ Just try to make me smoke a cigarette I’ll say No, no, no.” As an ever-lasting reminder of the anti-smoking messages unearthed during this event, the winners’ artwork was turned into an attractive little glossy catalogue for both participants and parents to enjoy long after the day was over. As the title promised, it really was an event where kids ran the show and took responsibility not only for their own health, but for that of their peers.
Parents were touched by the adamant involvement of their children, and the kids were elated with their success. RADA was honored to have so many talented and enthusiastic children contribute to making the world smoke-free, and felt assured that their message was carried. The results of these contests reinforce the belief that children are better able to comprehend a profound issue when they are addressed in a prevention method that will intrigue them. “Prevention is the key to reducing various health risks in our society; it is better to prevent than to treat a disease. We believe it is important to teach our children at an early age about the downfalls of smoking so that when they grow up they can choose to live smoke-free,” said Dr. Rada Sumareva, DDS and President of RADA, in her speech to the guests that evening. Through the excitement and active involvement of so many children in the Kids 4 Kids initiative, RADA is proving that you can transform the peer-pressures that kids face daily into positive messages and pro-healthy life style attitudes.