Eleven-year-old Leah Barry vows to never use tobacco, and she hopes others will choose to abstain too.
"I don't think anybody should do it because it could hurt you really bad," said the Geneva Elementary School fifth-grader. "It's very addicting, and you could probably never stop."
Leah, who plans to be a writer when she grows up, entered The TRUTH from Youth Anti-tobacco Advertising Contest earlier this year. The annual statewide contest encourages fourth- and fifth-graders to create their own anti-tobacco ads.
Leah, of Orem, submitted her script for a radio spot featuring two characters -- Larry and Kim -- who discuss how Kim quit smoking after 20 years.
Leah took first place in the radio-ad competition. Winners in TV and billboard categories were also selected.
The contest, in its 12th year, drew 8,279 entries from throughout Utah, and 11 students received cash prizes. Milford's Carver Iorg won Best of Show. His radio ad, "Secondhand Smoke Sucks" will be produced and aired.
"We just want to spread the word in schools about the dangers of tobacco," said Kari Schmidt of the Utah County Health Department. "This contest gives students the opportunity to be creative and come up with their own ideas for anti-tobacco campaigns."
Leah won $300, which Emilee Barry, Leah's mother, said is "a lot of money for an 11 year old."
"I'm not totally surprised," Emilee Barry said of her daughter's win. "She's a good writer, and she has good ideas. Leah and her cousin are constantly writing plays and performing plays."
Only Leah's plays aren't about fairy princesses, and the characters don't live happily ever after.
"Usually, it's something scary," her mother said. "She's really interested in mysteries. Her favorite books to read are usually scary, like they're about the girl who wandered into the graveyard alone at night."
It's no wonder then that the gore and scary-story-loving student did so well in an anti-tobacco advertising contest. The Utah Department of Health reports, "Ninety percent of adult smokers began lighting up before age 19, and one in three will eventually die of their addiction."
That's as gruesome as it gets.
Larry: Smoking is a bad thing for us. So, we have a witness with us to tell us about smoking. You're on, Kim.
Kim: Well, I started when I was 8. I wanted to start as soon as I could because I wanted to follow my parents.
Larry: So, you started because you wanted to be like your parents?
Kim: Yes. I liked how cool they looked when my parents smoked, but I didn't notice they wanted to stop.
Larry: So, you wanted to stop too?
Kim: Yeah. I got lucky, because my parents helped me stop.
Larry: I see. I have one more question.
Kim: What is it?
Larry: How long have you been smoking?
Kim: About 20 years.
Larry: Wow. Thanks for letting me interview you.
Both: Say NO to smoking!