The Philadelphia Department of Public Health hasn't quite developed a reputation for merrymaking, but for the second year in a row it has come up with presents - a one-month supply of nicotine patches plus telephone counseling - for 5,000 people.
The free smoking- cessation packages are worth about $400 each (paid for with a federal grant). Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz said a survey after last year's giveaway found that it had helped 1,700 residents quit.
Philadelphia has the highest adult smoking rate of the 10 biggest cities in the country. The patches are part of a broad Nutter administration campaign against tobacco that ranges from higher penalties for illegal underage sales to floor-to-ceiling "Quit Now" messages in some city elevators. The Board of Health has discussed a controversial proposal to mandate illustrated anti-smoking placards on retailers' counters.
There also is a new public service announcement that the city plans to use on the Web and on television; it's the winning entry in a video contest. Titled "Quit for You, But Please Think of Us," the 60-second video consists of Lee Elementary School students citing bursts of facts - numbers of deaths linked to smoking, types of diseases it causes - and then giving their names.
Gino Canella, the creator and a Temple graduate student, said he decided to focus on kids because "they just have a lot to lose, with the opportunity to gain."
Some other entries in the SmokeFree Philly contest, which can be found on YouTube, are provocative. In one, a little girl takes the viewer on a tour of the city. "This is where I ride my bike. . . . This is where I walk my dog," she says, before holding up a cigarette and stating, in a poorly recorded closing line, that this is what will make her "a statistic."
Another video shows a young man holding a gun to his head, contemplating suicide. A woman asks him what he's doing, and the gun becomes a cigarette. He starts to light it, and the screen goes dark, but not the sound. It's a gunshot.
For quit-smoking kits, call 1-800-784-8669 or www.smokefreephilly.org.