Arkansas Students Stand Up to ‘Big Tobacco’ with Statewide Essay Project

(Little Rock, Ark.) – Winners have been selected out of more than 774 entries received from around the state for the Stamp Out Smoking (SOS) Project Prevent’s My Reason to Write essay project. Arkansas students composed essays based on this year’s theme, “Inspire, Enlighten, Lead: Stand Up to Big Tobacco,” which encourages students and members of their communities to rally against Big Tobacco and live tobacco- and nicotine-free lifestyles. Entries to the youth-focused Project Prevent essay project were divided into three categories, grades 2-3, 4-5, 6-8, with a first-, second-, and third-place award given in each category.

“We are pleased that so many students in Arkansas chose to participate in this project. Their decision to speak out against Big Tobacco and lead a nicotine-free lifestyle sets a good example for their friends, family and community,” said Michelle Snortland, Branch Chief of the Arkansas Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program.

In Arkansas, 19.1 percent of high school students smoke, which is 3.4 percent more than the national average. The average age of new smokers is 13. If smoking rates do not drop, roughly 69,000 Arkansas children alive today will eventually die early due to a smoking-related disease. In addition, health care costs in Arkansas due to tobacco use are $1.21 billion annually.

“Activities such as the ‘My Reason to Write’ contest give youth a voice against Big Tobacco” added Snortland. “It is imperative that we as parents, educators and policymakers listen to our youth if we want a healthier Arkansas.”

Winners and categories are as follows:

Grades 2-3:

  • 1st Clark Cupp – Hugh Goodwin Academy for the Arts, El Dorado
  • 2nd Maria Thomas – Blessed Sacrament School, Jonesboro
  • 3rd Grace Theos – Kingston School

Grades 4-5:

  • 1st Keaton Price – Perryville Elementary School
  • 2nd Kaylee Munnerlyn – Academics Plus Charter School, Maumelle
  • 3rd Cady Gray Murray – Carl Stuart Middle School, Conway

Grades 6-8:

  • 1st Mark Belk – Nettleton Junior High School, Jonesboro
  • 2nd Emily Yawn – Nettleton Junior High School, Jonesboro
  • 3rd Cu’Shaun Gillum – East Junior High School, West Memphis

My Reason to Write submissions were accepted online through between October 28th and December 5th. Entries were screened and then judged by a third party, who scored the qualifying entries and selected the winners in each category.

All winning essays can be seen on

About the SOS Project Prevent
SOS Project Prevent is a youth tobacco prevention program through the Arkansas Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. To get involved visit,, or