WEIRTON - A character created by a local boy became the center of an effort to discourage children at the Weirton Christian Center from using tobacco products.
Isaiah Jacques saw Mr. Butts, a character he created for a poster contest held by the RAZE group formed by the center and Advocates for Substance Abuse Prevention, become full size through the donation of a kicking block by the Rine Karate Studio.
Brooke County Magistrate provided prizes for winners of the kicking competition.
Three- and 4-year-old children in the center's preschool classes were invited to kick Mr. Butts during a visit to the school by RAZE members and Jason Rine and Rachel Sperlazza, representatives of ASAP, a group comprised of representatives of various agencies aimed at educating the public about various forms of addiction.
The group has criticized the tobacco industry for using advertising techniques it believes encourages youth to smoke.
RAZE members also presented several "Commotions," or activities designed to demonstrate the dangers of tobacco, including having children pump air through a replica of a red healthy pig's lung and compare it to air pumped through a replica of a black diseased lung.
The event is among nearly 1,300 staged around the country and at U.S. Military bases around the world by RAZE groups to educate youth and adults about lung disease and other effects of tobacco use.
Also on hand was Weirton Mayor Geoge Kondik, who delivered a proclamation stating nearly one-fifth of all high school students, about 3 million total, and nearly one of every 14 eighth-graders are smokers.
He added one of three youth smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases, and smoking kills more than 400,000 Americans each year - more deaths than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined.