By HOWARD BALABAN email@example.com
Medina Journal-Register — Motorists along Route 31 who enter Medina from the west and those who continue driving east into Lockport on Route 31E, have seen the same billboard in the past few weeks.
Sponsored by the Orleans County Health Department, the sign features the work of Lyndonville Central School’s Natalie Allen. The ninth-grader created the artwork at the end of last school year as part of what she called “required extra credit.”
Her mother, Pam, recalled how they learned Natalie had won.
“We got a phone call letting us know,” Pam said. “Then they told us they’d call when the billboards went up, but we wound up finding them instead.”
Pam said Natalie’s original picture was altered slightly to “make it more understandable.” Still, the shock of seeing it on a billboard was definitely unexpected.
“We were heading to Lockport for dinner and then we saw it in Gasport,” Pam said, noting how it was exciting for her daughter.
Natalie agreed that it was “awesome” to see her work on public display.
The aim of the project was to encourage vendors not to deal tobacco products to minors, Natalie explained.
“There was an option to do something about just not smoking, too, but I chose to do something on not dealing to minors because I’ve seen it have effects,” Natalie said.
“There’ve been a lot of deaths from smoking, since it can cause cancer, so it’s a big deal because it can shorten your lifespan,” she added.
Lyndonville Superintendent Jason Smith said of the winner, “It’s a testament to our students and staff to have student like Natalie recognized.”
According to Nola Goodrich-Kresse, Orleans County Public Health Educator, the billboard contest has run for the past several springs.
“What we’re trying to do is help people understand the law and that it’s against the law to sell tobacco products to anyone under 18, including e-cigarettes,” she said. “There’s a specific list and all stores have a red and white sign of things that are not to be sold to people under 18.”
The list includes items such as chewing tobacco, rolling paper, cigarettes, et. al.
“With this poster contest we have kids develop posters that are specifically designed to get the message across that it’s illegal,” Goodrich-Kresse said.
While selling to minors is not an epidemic, Goodrich-Kresse noted that it is an issue with some vendors.
“The majority comply,” she said. “If young people go in to buy something without ID the majority of the time vendors don’t sell to them.”
One reason they might, though, could be they simply are not paying attention, she said.
“The majority of sales to minors we’ve seen over the years are when the clerk isn’t paying attention, and that clerk could be an employee or an owner,” Goodrich-Kresse noted.
Natalie’s poster was chosen because it “gets the message across that it’s illegal …and hers showed how it’s a decision-making process for the clerk,” Goodrich-Kresse added.
For her first-place artistry, Natalie was awarded a Wal-Mart giftcard and placement on the two billboards.