Consider the source

Free textbook covers that trumpet an antismoking message - 'Think. Don't Smoke.' - might seem like a good idea. But the head of California's schools recently directed all superintendents to reject the gift.

Schools around the United States that have an agreement with Primedia's Cover Concepts Marketing Services are receiving 13 million such book covers. They sport images such as snowboarders framed against majestic mountains and cloud-studded skies - reinforcement, it could seem, for pursuing a healthy lifestyle and strengthening the current decline in teen smoking.

But questions started to pop up after some teachers saw the logo on the cover, which belongs to cigarettemaker Philip Morris.

There were a variety of concerns. Some thought the imagery of the clouds could be interpreted as puffs of smoke, and the snowboard as a match. Then there was the fact that the Surgeon General's health warning gets folded inside when the cover is put on.

And how would this jibe with substance-abuse courses and zero-tolerance standards? What message would students focus on - the "just say no" exhortation, or a brand name with illicit cachet?

If kids need any further education in cynicism, this would be one way to provide it.

Students are awash in ads. They pass logo-emblazoned soda machines in halls. A North Carolina district recently voted to name classrooms for businesses.

Corporations should certainly donate to schools, or sponsor a public-service campaign. But they could give kids a true lesson in character education by confining their logos to the fine print. E-mail newcomba@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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