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Tobacco settlement dollars spent on snuffing out underage smoking
MIAMI (CNN) -- Even as America's five biggest tobacco companies appeal a record-setting verdict in Florida, tobacco money funds anti-smoking programs in several states.
The $6 billion earmarked for programs that teach children about the health hazards of lighting up comes from the $254 billion nationwide tobacco settlement.
One instructor said that understanding advertising at an early age is key to preventing kids from smoking.
"Tobacco marketing is targeted to kids your age, between 12 and 15. That's when they want to get you," Hot Tips Program instructor Tim Curtin warned one class in Broward County, Florida. "It just takes one cigarette -- the first one -- to begin the addictive behaviors."
Curtin believes he needs to get the message out to even younger students.
"Like any substance use or abuse, the younger we can target the audience, the more informed and educated they will be when they first come across that temptation, curiosity," he said.
During Florida's landmark class action lawsuit, tobacco executives repeatedly told jurors they are not using advertising to rope in young people.
"We do not want kids to smoke. We do not go after kids. We do not go after non-smokers," R.J. Reynolds CEO Andrew Schindler testified on June 19.
Anti-smoking advocates say it's not just a matter of advertising.
"It's a matter of permeating the culture with your message and your images," said Danny McGoldrick of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. "And so they do this through advertising and being in every store you ever walk into."
Youngsters in Curtin's program are taught to find the hidden messages of cigarette ads.
"If you smoke these cigarettes, you'll be pretty and slim," one student said after studying an ad.
Curtin affirmed the student's assessment, "The message being, if you smoke these cigarettes, you'll be long and slender, too."
His message has an impact on some Miami youngsters in the program.
"Smoking can kill you," said 7th grader Sean Gray.
Tobacco moves landmark smokers' case to federal court
Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
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