Congratulating students of Byrd Elementary School for their anti-smoking program

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Congratulating students of Byrd Elementary School for their anti-smoking program
by Margaret Scafati Roukema

Congressional Record: March 23, 1999 (Extensions of Remarks) Page E517. DOCID:cr23mr99-20.


Tuesday, March 23, 1999

Mrs. ROUKEMA. Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the students of Byrd Elementary School in Glen Rock, New Jersey, on their efforts to spread the word about the dangers of smoking. The students, assisted by representatives of the New Jersey Breathes program, are conducting a week-long tobacco awareness program, including a school-wide assembly, demonstrations, a poster contest and a composition contest. In addition, the school nurse, Ms. Judy Mullane, has visited each class to discuss smoking and health. The initiatives taken by these students, their teachers and the school district should be commended and mirrored in schools across our nation. As a former teacher myself, I know how extremely important it is to teach children to say no to tobacco. This is a problem that adds thousands of children to the tobacco addiction rolls every day. One of the most effective ways to stop it is through educational initiatives similar to the one we are seeing at Byrd Elementary School.

As a Member of Congress, I have long supported legislation that would limit the spread of tobacco addiction to young people. It is essential that we stand up for the health of our children and help keep them from becoming addicted to the most widespread drug threatening our society-- tobacco. The average smoker takes his or her first puff of a cigarette at age 11. If adults choose to smoke, that's a poor decision but one they are allowed to make for themselves. But if children are lured into smoking, that is a moral crime and should be a statutory crime.

Last year, I was a co-sponsor of the NOT for Kids Act, which would raise the price of a pack of cigarettes by $1.50 over 3 years. Raising the price of cigarettes has a direct and measurable impact on reducing smoking among children. From 1982 to 1992, the price of cigarettes went up 50 percent and the percentage of teen-agers who smoke steadily dropped. Cigarette prices leveled off in 1992 and we've seen an increase since.

I have also supported the national settlement of tobacco lawsuits. First, we must be certain that none of the settlement money is diverted by the federal government. To ensure that, I have co-sponsored H.R. 351. At least part of the money from these settlements should be used for public education programs about the dangers of smoking to young people. These programs should be directed at our young people through their schools so that we can reach them before it is too late. It is far more effective to prevent tobacco addiction that to stop it once it has begun.

It is important to note that the anti-smoking effort in Glen Rock goes beyond the school system. Matthew Kopacki, owner of Rock Ridge Pharmacy, has stopped selling cigarettes in his pharmacy after the death of one of his employees from lung cancer. Mayor Jacquelyn Kort is among those speaking at Byrd Elementary School. And the New Jersey Breathes program is being supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

I would like to ask all my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to join me in thanking Principal Hal Knapp, Mayor Kort, Nurse Mullane, Mr. Kopacki, New Jersey Breathes Director Dr. Larry Downs and all the teachers and other staff involved in this important project. But beyond this group, I want to make a special appeal to the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, big sisters and brothers and all other adults who play an influential role in the lives of the students of Byrd Elementary School. We all know that children imitate the behavior of adults. Please set a good example for these and all children by not smoking.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).