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RAT Pack brings anti-tobacco message

Enterprise Attendance Center elementary students clapped theirhands along with catchy songs while learning about the harmfuleffects of tobacco during a visit from the Reject All Tobacco (RAT)Packers Thursday.

One of five RAT Pack dance troupes in Mississippi entertainedroughly 350 students ranging from kindergarten to sixth-grade,except fourth-graders who were taking a state writing exam, atEnterprise. The pack, made up of three high school students fromMadison, kept students occupied through the use of giveaways anddance moves while Terrance, the rat mascot, provided educationalinformation on tobacco use.

“We empower the youth to make healthy lifestyle decisions byeducating them on the dangers of tobacco and other harmfulsubstances,” said Lori Carter, program director of the MississippiTobacco Free Coalition of Copiah and Lincoln County. “The programgives opportunities for youth to develop teamwork, communicationand other critical life skills.”

Carter said Enterprise Attendance Center is the only school inLincoln and Copiah County the RAT Pack will be visiting this year.Each dance troupe is comprised of high school students and due tothe students’ busy schedules, the number of shows had to be cutdown, Carter said.

“I think it was a great thing for one of our Lincoln Countyschools to be a part of,” said Carter. “I wanted to give them thatspecial opportunity to see what can happen in the program.”

Thursday’s visit was the first time in seven years the RAT Packbroke it down on the Enterprise Attendance Center campus.

Enterprise school Principal Shannon Eubanks was excited to havethe program on campus. He thought it was important to introduce theyoung students to the anti-tobacco messages early so they willhopefully carry the messages with them over time and impact theircommunities.

“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Eubanks. “You buildit up over time.”

Carter thought the anti-tobacco messages resonated with theyoung students so well due to the ages of the dancers who weredelivering them. Members of the dance troupe said they couldremember when the RAT Pack visited their schools when they wereyounger.

“Younger kids think older kids are cool,” said RAT Pack memberQueenie Edwards. “We say, ‘no tobacco,’ and hopefully they’ll wantto be like us.”

Students who attended the program were able to take away someheart-stopping facts.

Terrance educated students on the harmful uses of tobacco whileprojected on a video screen. The audience learned how tobacco killsone out of three users, causes bad breath and can becomeaddicting.

“It’s like having a big monkey on your back,” Terrance told thestudents. “A big, hairy monkey you can’t shake loose.”

While only one school saw the RAT Pack show, Carter said schoolsin Lincoln County will have a Kick Butts Day on March 23. Cartermentioned the day will aim to educate participants in ways thattobacco companies are targeting younger consumers.

“Tobacco companies are marketing toward our youth because theirolder consumers are dying,” said Carter.