As the health officer of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department and an avid "Peanuts" fan, I recently had the opportunity to spread the message of the dangers of tobacco and smoking. Many smokers began at an early age, first trying tobacco, and then becoming addicted for life. Even if they want to quit, it is extremely difficult - just ask anyone who currently uses tobacco. That is why it is important not to start, and that is where "Joe Too Cool To Smoke" comes in.
Recently, I, along with many volunteers, was able to bring the 6-foot statue of "Joe Too Cool To Smoke" to Woodsdale and Steenrod Elementary Schools. There, we would show them the hazards of tobacco - from the diseased pig lungs with cancer to what chewing tobacco can do to your mouth. We also discussed the up and coming issues with e-cigarettes, what is in tobacco, and what it is like to breathe when you have smoking diseases such as emphysema.
I think all of these issues made an impression on their young minds.
To further emphasize these issues, "Joe Too Cool To Smoke" is used as a vehicle to get this point across that it is not cool to smoke or use tobacco. When I was younger, the tobacco companies sent the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel to try to win customers over. I would like to think when these kids are approached now to use tobacco they will realize it is not cool to let peer pressure let them become addicted to tobacco; and judging by the reaction with these kids with "Snoopy" ("Joe Too Cool To Smoke"), the "Peanuts" characters are alive and well in Wheeling, W.Va.
This endeavor was made possible by many volunteers - Becket Ihlenfeld, Howard Gamble, Nancy LaBrosse, Linda Holmstrand, Dr. Tracy Zang, Dr. Annie LaBrosse, Dr. Heather Taylor, Sarah Ihlenfeld, Rachel Hunter, Stephanie Dillon, Allison Sutherland, Megan Galloway, Melissa Soltez, Dr. Kim Miller, Ellen Culler, Dale Sigler, and Chris Teagarden. These people helped using their time and talent to get this message across.
The sponsors who helped with the cost of the T-shirts and sunglasses include Wheeling-Ohio County Health Dept., Wheeling Hospital, Ohio Valley Medical Center, Peterson Geriatric and Rehabilitation Hospital, Ohio County Medical Society, Ohio County Dental Society, TB Association of Ohio County, Wheeling City Council, Ohio County Commissioners, American Lung Association, and West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. Without them and their support, this could not have taken place.
Last, I would like to thank Mrs. Jeannie Schulz, Charles Schulz's widow. She is the one who oversees the "Peanuts" business. She allowed us to present this program using "Joe Too Cool To Smoke." With all the copyright restrictions and a lot of organizations wanting to be affiliated with the "Peanuts" characters, I feel very fortunate she felt this was a worthy cause to let "Joe Too Cool To Smoke" take place.
William C. Mercer, M.D., Health Officer,
Wheeling-Ohio County Health Dept.