A Healthier Barn Painting than “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco”
If you’re driving on US 219 near Cooktown, you will see a big freshly painted red barn East of the highway. Unlike the traditional “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco” painted years ago on barns throughout West Virginia, the barn in Cooktown sends a quite different and healthier message, “Quit Smoking, Treat yourself to Health” on its South side, and although harder to see, the North side of the barn says “A Tip from a Former Smoker. Those Things You Say Will Never Happen To You? They Happen.” The phone number for the West Virginia ”Quitline” -1-800-QUIT NOW – is also painted on the barn.
On Thursday, October 13th, the Geographic Health Alliance and Community Connections teamed up with the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition to dedicate this barn. Greg Puckett, the Executive Director Community Connections explains about the barn projects.
“It’s Greg Pucket with Community Connections” said Greg. “I am also a County Commissioner in Mercer County. The history of the barns goes back to the time when I started with Community Connections back in (20)01. We wanted to do some innovative strategies around tobacco control and prevention. Over the years we started looking at different ways and we knew that Mail Pouch had a very unique history in West Virginia because it started here, it was the first form of outdoor advertising and we wanted to do something that I would call counter culture and we took out an anti-tobacco message to the same advertising strategy that Mail Pouch did. So we did our very first barn in Monroe County, West Virginia –it was the very first spit tobacco prevention barn in the country. The Division of Tobacco Prevention was very excited about the work we were doing. We went out and did another one in my home county of Mercer, we went to Wyoming County and we went up to Jackson County. Bruce Adkins was the director then, I told him I wasn’t that fond of the green. He said I wouldn’t care if it was pink if it got the message out. And it just happened to be September, and October is Brest Cancer Awareness Month, so we thought –got a little bit of funds, let’s see if we can do the very first breast cancer awareness tobacco prevention barn. So we did that just up the road in Randolph County in a little town called Harmon. That was a great adventure for us. went back over and did one in Wirt county. We did another one then in Jackson County and went back to Jackson and did another breast cancer awareness (barn.) And then we got back to doing spit tobacco-sort of our roots- in Hampshire County, did a great barn up there, it’s a big grey barn at the Peacemaker Farm. This (in Cooktown) is now the thirteenth barn. It’s the second CDC- that’s Center for Disease Control – Tips Barn. The first one we did is up in Mineral County which is also a red barn, and that was done by (the) Tips from former Smokers Campaign, which has been going on for a long time and it was about ‘Quitting Isn’t about What You Give Up, It Is About What You Get Back.’ When we talked to CADCO, which is the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, they are the ones we are partnered with in addition to the CDC, they said ‘we want to do anotherone with this gentleman Mark.’ Mark has “Things You Say Will Never Happen To You? They Happen.” I kept thinking to myself ‘Pocahontas County is a great County, it has amazing barns, it’s got great people, Route 219 has a great traffic count on here and we and we just thought a good red barn sitting out in the middle of nowhere that is going to get great visibility, great photos, great way to tell our message and hopefully be able to give back to the community.”
Mark Arsenault, whose tip is used on the barn, is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm who smoked and got colorectal cancer. The owner of the barn, Mr. Burks, was happy to allow his barn to be used to get this message out. The barn was painted by Barn Artist Scott Hogan.
Besides Greg Puckett, Mark Arsenault, Congressman Even Jenkins and General Arthur Dean from the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, also spoke at the dedication Ceremony. Students from Pocahontas County High School attended the dedication and were allowed to sign their names on the wall inside the barn.