Players from the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday visited Arthur Ashe Elementary School as part of Tobacco Free Week to talk to students about the significance of living tobacco-free and how to overcome peer pressure.
"I'm so glad I can have a positive impact on the kids," Saints defensive end Akiem Hicks said.
Brian Roberts, reserve point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans, said that he was proud to represent both teams at the event.
"It's important for kids to have someone to influence them and to help them down the right path," Roberts said. "It's always good to see a smile on their faces."
In honor of Tobacco Free Week, each team has set aside a game to honor Tobacco-Free Living. Before the Saints' game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Tobacco-Free Living distributed white rally towels outside the stadium accompanied with literature on the importance of a tobacco-free lifestyle. At the Pelicans' game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, the Pelicans will teach their fans and their opponents how to incorporate being tobacco-free living into their daily lives.
At Tuesday's rally, Pelicans broadcaster Sean Kelley, who is also a firefighter in Mandeville, demonstrated the danger of smoke by donning his firefighter uniform.
"We wear all of this gear to protect ourselves from smoke and, sometimes, it still has a negative impact on our health," he said. "Imagine what the chemicals that enter your body from smoking, using tobacco and second-hand smoke can do to your system."
Students heard from Hicks and Roberts, as well as Alex Hurst, cessation coordinator for the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living.
"Many people your age think that they can't get addicted because they don't smoke often. But symptoms of addiction can happen within weeks or even days after smoking occasionally," he said. "Tobacco-Free Living and the Saints/Pelicans are teaming up to help educate the people of Louisiana on the dangers of smoking and what resources are available to help them quit."
Roberts and Hicks were joined by Saints safety Isa Abdul-Quddus and Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson. Following the presentation, the four athletes pledged to be smoke and tobacco-free by signing a banner signed by all the students that will be hung in the school.
Hicks, Quddus, Roberts and Anderson helped lead the students in several basketball and football-related activities, encouraging them to be smoke and tobacco-free and also participate in activity every day so they can live a healthy life.