Anti-Smoking Campaign Causes Concerns

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A new anti-smoking campaign that targets teens is creating some controversy for local television stations.

The series of four public service announcements (PSA's) were conceived and produced by local high school students at the Regional Technical Institute's video production class. The project is sponsored by Saint Mary's Hospital.

KOLO News Channel 8 has received several calls from viewers asking that the PSA's be pulled because they're too graphic. The announcement shows someone smoking and mixes the clips with scenes showing someone with a gun near their head.

Though some KOLO News Channel 8 viewers have said they're offended by the connection being made between smoking and suicide, representatives from Saint Mary's Hospital - which sponsored the series of announcements - says they have to push limits.

"Unless you have some kind of edge or strong point to make, a lot of people won't pay attention," says Mike Jouhnson of St. Mary's Hospital.

Johnson says the majority of new smokers are teenagers and the Silver State has the second highest rate of teen smoking in the nation.

That's why Johnson says he asked the students at the Regional Technical Institute's TV production class to create the PSA's.

The kids say the negative attention from viewers isgood.

"It lets us know that our message is out there and we are affecting people, and that's what it is designed to do," says student Noah Boyer.

The other three PSA's in the series are less controversial. One portrays a smoker in a restaurant. Another shows a group of kids in a car smoking, and the last portrays a pool scene.

But one television production student says the funny approach simply isn't as effective as this serious, but controversial PSA.

"In my opinion, sticking a cigarette in your mouth is just as dangerous as sticking a gun in your mouth because either way, you're going to end up dead," says William Huston.

We invited some viewers who called us wanting the PSA pulled from our air, to comment on camera, but they refused. KOLO-TV has chosen to continue airing the anti-smoking campaign.