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Whistler's teenagers are about to face an anti-smoking campaign they can't avoid. New studies report that 17 per cent of B.C. teens smoke, and that the average first drag comes at 15.3 years. Coast Garibaldi Community Health's Tobacco Reduction Co-ordinator Marilyn McIvor has developed a variety of programs for students from Grades 3 to 8 that'll be a mandatory part of school curriculum. A tobacco reduction program called "bc.tobaccofacts" for Grades 6 and 7 involves a series of lessons designed to help students make healthy choices about using tobacco. "Beauty from the Inside Out" is a tobacco prevention program aimed at girls in Grade 8. The program came to Whistler's Grade 8's on Oct. 16. It'll be at Pemberton Secondary on Dec. 3 and Squamish and Brackendale on Feb. 18. There's also a program for teens who already smoke and want to quit. It's called "Kick the Nic" and was piloted on the Sunshine Coast and will soon be coming to the valley. Finally, McIvor is planning a "Kick Butt" night in Whistler on Jan. 18, the first day of National Non-Smoking Week. Meanwhile, it will be harder than ever for teens to buy a pack of smokes. B.C. Health Minister Penny Priddy announced an amendment to provincial legislation that will protect children from the effects of tobacco and help discourage the sale of tobacco to young children. As of Jan. 4, 1999, the government will have a warehouse of tools to prevent tobacco retailers from selling to minors. Fines will be increased fivefold. Conviction for first offence will be up to $2,500. Suspensions for retailers convicted of selling tobacco to minors will be doubled, and they'll have to post signs announcing their suspension to the public.

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