________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 3 . . . .September 28, 2007


Let's Clear the Air: 10 Reasons Not to Start Smoking.

Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2007.
192 pp, pbk., $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-897073-66-7.

Subject Heading:
Smoking-Prevention-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Reece Steinberg.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I had barely started elementary school, but I already knew all about tobacco, specifically cigarettes-- at least I thought I did. I knew that older kids and adults were smoking; I knew that glamorous stars were smoking; but what I didn't know at the time was how harmful smoking could be. Enraptured by billboards, advertisements and stars, I wanted to be "cool." I eventually grew out of the beginning stages of becoming a regular customer of Big Tobacco, and instead became an activist encouraging youth to either stop smoking or fight for political change on the subject.

"Did You Know?
Cigarette brands have also been advertised in video games. The old-school racing game Pole Position II (1983), and its sequel, Atari Final Lap (1987), both had virtual Marlboro billboards displayed along the tracks."


Let's Clear the Air is a collection of stories and essays by people, age 9-17, about smoking, and why the young authors choose not to smoke. A brief history or description of each author accompanies their writing. The stories and essays vary significantly in their style and content, but they are generally 1-3 pages long. The youths writing the essays include anti-tobacco youth activists, kids who have smoking family members, and some that have lost family members to tobacco-related illnesses. The writings tend to be personal, straightforward and heartfelt.

     A huge success of this collection is its ability to go far beyond health related reasons not to smoke. For youths who feel invincible, or who are unconcerned with health, the book offers 10 unique reasons not to smoke, including sports performance, appearance, environmental sustainability, financial cost and false advertising/supporting tobacco corporations. Each chapter is dedicated to one reason and contains the youths' writings, as well as examples of anti-smoking advertising, and fact boxes. A vital part of the book, the fact boxes share a variety of types of information with readers. 'Activist Moments' shares successful and ongoing actions that youths and adults have accomplished in anti-smoking campaigns. These range from nine-year-old Justin Kvadas who succeeded in getting smoking banned in cars carrying children under age seven to a laryngectomy patient who smoked through a hole in her neck in a memorable anti-smoking TV advertisement. 'Fast Facts' are brief informational blurbs, often containing statistical information. They focus on anything from the amount of advertising cigarette companies aim at young people to why cigarette filters do not work. 'Smoking Stats' offer very brief statistics on death and disease rates, the appearance of tobacco in entertainment and other topics. 'Did You Know?' boxes share surprising and unusual information, such as the fact that cigarette butts are often accidentally consumed by marine animals and birds, and that smoking may contribute to the development of agoraphobia and panic disorder. Historical information written about in "Instant History Facts" gives context to anti-smoking struggles and reveals information that may seem shocking to young readers- that smoking was permitted in airplanes everywhere until 1988, and that the first U.S. study on tobacco's link to cancer and other illnesses was only released in 1964. The fact boxes serve to break up the essays and stories, adding visual interest to the book, and increasing the ease in which the book may be read.

      The design of this book is quite good. Its cover is a startling black, red and white, plus the yellow-tan of cigarette butts; its aesthetic is a mixture of the stencil and cut'n paste fonts popular for young adult books and not quite overdone. The inside of the book easily captures attention with large illustrations and photographs, as well as the fact boxes mentioned earlier. The font is large and easy to read, and a grey background helps to distinguish the youths' writing from other writing in the book.

      Let's Clear the Air would likely be useful in a classroom or group situation where youths could read all or parts of the book and engage in discussion. Many of the facts and essays are thought-provoking, and all are short, interesting and fairly simple to read. The factual information contained within it could be used for school projects by for youths of the target age group, as well as older youths. The topic may not be one that attracts many young people to read it for pleasure, but with some guidance Let's Clear the Air could add an important peer component to anti-smoking youth education.

Highly Recommended.

Reece Steinberg, a librarian at Vancouver Public Library, currently works in the Business & Science, and Virtual Reference divisions.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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