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LaCrossroads student Lerome Edman, 17, applies a temporary tattoo to Logan High School student Dan Bagniefski during a class campaign event Friday to educate their peers about Wisconsin’s new smoke-free workplace law, which takes effect July 5. Students were offered a root beer float at the event in return for wearing the tattoo.

LaCrossroads students want their peers to know smoking isn’t cool.

It’s an addictive, unhealthy habit that corporate tobacco aims at young people, they said.

“If we help them know what it does, maybe they won’t start and they can teach their families and their kids,” said LaCrossroads senior Stepfani Eason, 18, who smokes.

“I’m in the process of quitting,” she added.

“Smoking was holding me back,” she said. “When I would run up the stairs, I would be winded and need to sit down to catch my breath.”

Students at the La Crosse School District charter school for at-risk teens have launched a campaign to make others aware of the dangers of smoking, as well as the workplace smoking ban that takes effect in the state

July 5.

They’ve handed out notes and made T-shirts, and celebrated Friday with giveaways and root beer floats during their “Floats not Smokes” promotion at Logan High School.

By raising awareness, the students also hope those who smoke are more conscientious of where they light up and keep second-hand smoke away from children, said junior Denasha Phinney, 17.

The students learned about corporate tobacco’s methods during a training session at CESA No. 4, teacher Karen Wrolson said. The information was followed up by visits from La Crosse County health educator Judi Zabel.

“I think this was great because most of them smoke and this was kind of a twist on it,” Wrolson said. “They needed to get angry that they were being manipulated and targeted – and they did.”

Of her students that smoke, 95 percent want to quit, Wrolson said. They’re trying or at least cutting back, she said.

“Sometimes people look at at-risk teens as bad kids who like to smoke. Most of them hate it, and they are victims of corporate greed who wish they had never started and they are now doing something about it,” Wrolson said.

The students can tell others about the cost, smell and energy wasted thinking about the next cigarette, Wrolson said. “They are great people to deliver the message.”

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