"The best way to have a smokin' smile ... is not to smoke."
That is what a large group of Hall students are trying to relay to their peers as a part of the nationwide initiative "Kick Butts Day."
The Students Working Against Tobacco, or SWAT, as they call themselves, in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs, are taking pictures of nonsmoking smiles.
The smiles are being used as the focal point for tobacco-free messages throughout the school system, as well as local dentists' offices.
"The kids are working incredibly hard," said Angie Caton with the Northeast Georgia Health System.
SWAT participants out of C.W. Davis Middle School are heading up the initiative, but the group has representatives in every middle and high school in both Gainesville and Hall County.
They are pulling together their resources and taking pictures of healthy smiles - from children to adults. Their goal is to show the positives of not smoking, not just the negatives of smoking.
"Sometimes we get bombarded with the negative messages ... and this highlights those who stay tobacco free," said Caton.
"Kick Butts Day" comes in the middle of a movement by the surgeon general, who, this week, launched a series of ads promoting a smoke-free America.
Part of that movement, at least at the grassroots level, is educating children on the effects of smoking.
"We have got to start with the kids," said Caton. "If they never start smoking, they won't smoke when they're in their 20s."
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 20 percent of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes and the same percentage of high school students smoke as well.
Caton says the smoking percentage in Hall County is a little less than the national average.
Cigarette smoking can be traced back to an estimated 443,000 deaths each year, including deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Buy a brick, beautify Enota
Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy is looking to upgrade its playground, adding new equipment and a shade garden.
With the help of the Enota PTA and Fockele Gardens, alumni, teachers and friends can buy a brick in honor of someone "with whom you share fond memories of time spent at Enota."
"Our hope for this space is to enjoy a lunch outside or an inviting space for a teacher and student to have a conversation," said Scarlet Pendarvis, Enota playground chair.
"(We want) a place to come back to reflect on the love received and the memories made while at Enota."
The group hopes to install the shade garden in the fall after the new playground equipment has been installed.
For more information, contact Pendarvis at email@example.com.
Lee Johnson covers education issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him: