Reflections on 25 Years of Tar Wars
This year, family physicians, residents, medical students and others will present Tar Wars to roughly 500,000 fourth-grade and fifth-grade students. Since I co-founded the tobacco free education program as a resident in 1988, more than 9 million children have heard the Tar Wars message worldwide.
As we celebrated our
25th year this week during the Tar Wars National Conference in Washington, I
was asked to reflect on how far we've come. (Watch the video below to hear more about how it all began).
Before we started the first Tar Wars program in Colorado, we knew we were making a difference one kid at a time when they walked in the door of our residency. But we wanted to make a difference in more lives, and we accomplished that by taking Tar Wars to local schools.
We had no idea it would ever grow this big.
A family physician once told me that if you don't care who gets the credit, it's amazing what can happen. I think the secret of Tar Wars' success was not only did we have a great message, but we also shared the program and allowed state chapters to own it, change it and make it their own. That freedom and creativity has allowed Tar Wars to grow and evolve for a quarter of a century.
The prevalence of smoking among U.S. adults has continued to slowly decline from 26 percent in 1990 to less than 20 percent today. Still, we have a long way to go. Tobacco remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death in our country, and about 4,000 American children smoke their first cigarette each day.
Children are bombarded with messages -- wrong messages -- in popular culture portraying smoking as cool or glamorous. Soon kids will be heading back to school. Will you be there to tell them the truth about tobacco? Here is how to get involved.
Jeff Cain, M.D., is
president of the AAFP.