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Andrew Kurtz, a 17-year-old senior at Roseville’s Woodcreek High School, was shocked to look up from his desk and see his parents and a group of photographers walk into his art class Thursday morning. He had no idea why they were there.

That is, until Chris Palkowski, MD, the physician-in-chief of Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, stood at the front of Mr. Dave Branstetter’s class with a surprise announcement: Andrew was the winner of the annual Kaiser Permanente “Don’t Buy the Lie” art contest, a program in which thousands of students throughout Greater Sacramento draw posters with anti-tobacco themes.


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He received a $1,000 gift card. In addition, his artwork depicting dice, a burning cigarette, and a message – “Don’t Gamble with your Life” – will be placed on billboards throughout the Sacramento area. 

“This is inspiring to see students who are using their creativity and energy to tell such an important message,” Dr. Palkowski said.

Andrew, who plans to enroll in an art college, said he wants his artwork to make a difference in young people’s lives. “I hope they understand the message I’m trying to get across,” he said. “There’s so much danger involved in smoking.”

More than 8,000 students entered this year’s contest.

The winner of the middle school division is Yuliya Kaznacheyeva, an eighth-grader at Wilson C. Riles Middle School in Roseville. She was awarded her prize earlier in the week by Robert Azevedo, MD, the physician-in-chief of Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center. Yuliya’s artwork included the message, “Every breath you take will eventually shorten your life,” and was illustrated with a series of cigarettes decreasing in size – from a full cigarette to a cigarette butt.

“Don’t Buy the Lie,” which was started by Kaiser Permanente 20 years ago, is a successful, multi-faceted educational approach to discourage children and teenagers from smoking. The program includes a curriculum component, a series of school assemblies led by former tobacco industry researcher and whistleblower Victor DeNoble, and the art contest.