Diners heading to a popular outdoor plaza in Des Moines were treated to an odd spectacle Friday – one-thousand, 200 shoes, with no people in them. The sandals, pumps, tennis shoes and loafers were set out by members of JEL, a youth anti-smoking group, to represent the 12-hundred Americans who die every day from tobacco use. JEL stands for “Just Eliminate Lies,” and 17- year-old Kassie Hobbs of Bettendorf serves on JEL’s executive committee. The girl calls it an “awesome” way to show how 1200 people die each day and it’s not just a statistic. Hobbs says she’s been working for tobacco control for about four years and thinks if people are going to make choices about smoking, or not, they should be informed. Hobbs and the other teenagers lined up the 1200 pairs of shoes between picnic tables and a fountain at Des Moine’s downtown Nollen Plaza, and talked with noontime diners at the outdoor plaza. She says tobacco kills more than 440-thousand Americans each year, 4,600 of them Iowans and everyone should be able to make informed decisions. Some of the passersby stopped to look and said the display made them think. An unidentified woman says her son smokes and has tried to quit, as several of her friends have, and she went recently to the funeral of a co-worker in his fifties who was a smoker and shouldn’t have died that soon, so seeing the display of shoes has a “real impact.” But others were more skeptical. One man at the plaza says he just saw someone standing right by the display light up, so he’s not sure it’ll convince someone who’s a smoker. But even the skeptics said they were impressed with the young people’s passion to stamp out smoking.
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