In collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Greg Puckett (Executive Director of Community Connections, Inc., in West Virginia) and Scott Hagan, aka The Barn Artist – among others – the Geographic Health Equity Alliance (GHEA) participated in the unveiling of the “Rebecca Barn”, the first in the nation to feature a Tips from Former Smokers campaign personality. In the style of a bygone era of promotion, the barn — the 12th in which Community Connections and other coalitions located throughout the Mountain State have been involved — has a simple message from the CDC’s TIPS From Former Smokers campaign personality “Rebecca:” “Quitting isn’t about what you give up. It’s about what you get back.”
According to Addressing Tobacco Use and Its Associated Health Conditions in West Virginia, a strategic plan released by the West Virginia Division of Tobacco Prevention, more than 40 percent (40.9 percent) of West Virginia adults diagnosed with depression report cigarette smoking, and almost 45 percent of this population report current tobacco use (use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco). Given that the campaign has led to 100,000 people quitting smoking for good as well as preventing some 17,000 premature deaths nationally since its inception in 2012, featuring Rebecca’s “tip” on a barn is a culturally competent way of promoting tobacco cessation in West Virginia. “This a great milestone in tobacco cessation messaging, given that the Rebecca Barn is the first in the nation to feature a Tips from Former Smokers campaign ‘tip’ or message,” said Keith A. Vensey, the Director of the Geographic Health Equity Alliance.
The barn, hand-painted by artist Scott Hagan in bright red, black and white, is reminiscent of the style of the Mail Pouch tobacco barn murals. Originating at its Wheeling, WV headquarters, the Mail Pouch Chewing Company was the first company to use this form of outdoor advertisement for the sale of tobacco products in the country. At the height of the program in the early 1960s, there were about 20,000 Mail Pouch barns and cityscapes spread across 22 states. Now, GHEA and their partners are using this canvas for an opposite, public-health facing, tobacco cessation advocacy approach.
In addition, to add even more lasting effect, all individuals in attendance signed the door of the barn, illustrating their commitment to the cause and future endeavors. Vensey can be seen below signing on behalf of the Geographic Health Equity Alliance and CADCA.