A Virginia Commonwealth University student who created a video about the dangers of smoking has won a national contest sponsored by the U.S. surgeon general's office.
Ayyaz Amjad, of Woodbridge, won the $1,000 grand prize in the 18-25 age group for his video, "You Don't Smoke Cigarettes, Cigarettes Smoke You." The video outlines facts about smoking and features an animated robotic cigarette taking people out of a cigarette package and smoking them.
Officials announced the winners of the "Tobacco _ I'm Not Buying It" video contest late Wednesday.
Amjad said the video was completed in about two weeks and he spent about two weeks spreading the word about online voting for the contest.
"I really made the video to reach my friends and the community," said the 21-year-old rising senior kinetic imaging major. "There aren't any health benefits to smoking, mostly consequences. That's really where I got the idea."
Many of his friends told him the video has made a "huge impact on their lives and makes them think twice about smoking." A few actually told him they quit completely, saying it was because they "don't want a giant robot cigarette smoking them."
The grand prize winner in the 13-17 age category was Dantreal Waiters and the Manatee Youth for Christ SOZO team, from Bradenton, Fla. They rapped about the dangers of tobacco and why they're not buying it.
The contest was started in March when Surgeon General Regina Benjamin's office released the first comprehensive look at youth tobacco use in nearly two decades.
According to the report, almost one in five high school-aged teens smokes, down from earlier decades, but the rate of decline has slowed. And more than 80 percent of smokers begin by age 18 and 99 percent of adult smokers in the U.S. start by age 26.
The report said it was particularly important to stop young people from using tobacco because those who start smoking as teenagers can increase their chances of long-term addiction. They also quickly can experience reduced lung function, impaired lung growth, early heart disease and other health problems like asthma.
The report also recommended anti-smoking campaigns and increased restrictions under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's authority to regulate tobacco as other ways to prevent adolescents and young adults from using tobacco products.
Surgeon general's video contest: http://1.usa.gov/KZBioa
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.