A healthy mouth is a happy mouth. That was the message reflected in the winning poster and essay entries for the ninth annual Tobacco Free Hall County contest.
The theme for the contest, A Tobacco Free Mouth Creates a Beautiful Smile, was designed to promote oral health and awareness of the oral cancers and diseases tobacco use can cause.
Six Doniphan-Trumbull students placed in the art contest for elementary and middle school students. Three Doniphan-Trumbull high school students placed in the essay contest.
Lexi Hoffman, a junior, won the essay contest and received a $150 prize. Her classmate Blake Ballard finished second, and senior Dylan Sullivan earned a third-place award. Each boy received $75 for his essay.
Hoffman and Sullivan read their essays to the small group of parents. Hoffman also read Ballard’s because he could barely speak above a whisper.
Hoffman wrote about smiles being universal regardless of where a person lives. The health of a mouth is important to a person’s ability to smile, she said. Tobacco use erodes tissues in the gums and the mouth, and teeth can be damaged by the chemicals in chewing tobacco and cigarettes.
Scientific studies have shown that when someone doesn’t smile, it can have an effect on his or her overall happiness, she said.
Ballard’s essay focused on the harmful agents in chewing tobacco and cigarettes. He also wrote about his dad’s use of chewing tobacco and how he has talked to him about stopping.
“I hope he can find it within himself to quit,” Ballard wrote.
Sullivan’s essay also included a personal connection. He wrote about his brother’s use of cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Their mother, a dental hygienist, tried to persuade him to stop because tobacco use can yellow teeth, deteriorate gums and give a person bad breath, he said. After a trip to the dentist, his brother decided to quit using tobacco, he said.
Sandy Yager, prevention coordinator for Tobacco Free Hall County, said tobacco use is the single-largest preventable cause of disease and death in the United States. Nearly one out of five adults uses tobacco products, she said.
The elementary and middle school students who won first place in their divisions received $75 and will have their artwork on display on a billboard in Hall County. The second- and third-place finishers in each age division received $50 each, Yager said.
Logan Rainforth, a first-grader, finished first in the elementary division with her drawing of a smiling mouth with shiny white teeth on a blue background. There were cigarettes drawn in each corner, circled in red and crossed out.
Hannah Greathouse, third grade, earned second place. Carson Sullivan, also a third-grader, got third place.
Rosario Terrazas, a sixth-grader, won the middle school division with her drawing of a kid with a big, toothy grin.
Madyson Ludwig and Lacey Hoffman, both sixth-graders, earned second and third place, respectively.