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Play it stranger: new quest to promote science to young’uns

Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll may be old bedfellows but when it comes to promoting science the Ministry of Youth Development has only room for one.

The Rockfree Smokequest is a new initiative by the ministry that uses smoking to promote science to youngsters.

“The tobacco industry gets a bad rap for good reason, but the reality is that there’s a huge of amount of science inside a cigarette,” says ministry spokesperson Cindy Ashton.

Working together with multinational company British and Australian Tobacco, the ministry will run programmes in schools to study tobacco and its effects. Of special interest is the chemistry employed by cigarette companies to promote addiction.

“We’ll be seeking volunteers to smoke up to a packet a day and then study the effects on their physiology and mental wellbeing.

“An additional benefit is that we can involve economics as well because we’ll be getting the students to fund their addiction over time.”

The ministry will be offering a subsidy for the volunteers.

Ashton says she is aware of the claims regarding the harmful effects of cigarettes but underplays the concerns of some health groups.

“Not everyone has heard the other side of the story. For example, the scientists at British and Australian Tobacco can show strong evidence that nicotine is not as dangerous as P or as being hit by a speeding car – both of which children do every day.”

The Quest launches with a 'Toke in the Park' event this weekend where kids across the South Auckland area will be invited to try a variety of “smokes” in exchange for  taking a lesson in the lab.

“And our promise – no rock! With its strong association with sex and ear damage we’re especially keen to keep kids safe from rock and its dangers.”

The Rockfree Smokequest kicks off April 1.

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