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Smoking Puppets Tell Dad: Stop!

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If your daughter asks you to put out your cigarette because a dragon and some singing lungs told her it could hurt her, here's who to blame: puppeteer Craig T. Adams.

Adams has performed his one-man puppet show about secondhand smoke, "Clear the Air," for more than 100,000 Virginia elementary-schoolers. He appeared in Richmond schools in the fall.

Last week, the Richmond-based American Lung Association of Virginia bestowed on Adams its highest honor, the Douglas Southall Freedom Award, after he performed for a group of children from the Richmond Boys & Girls Clubs.

"Clear the Air" started with a grant from the lung association in 1995, after Adams had worked on other educational shows for kids: one about nutrition and exercise, and another about reporting sexual abuse and incest.

Since then, Adams, who lives in Norfolk, has done the half-hour anti-smoking show more than 400 times. Before each show, he briefly explains a few key elements (the dragon is friendly, lungs breathe oxygen). Then the fun begins.

The story line: A girl puppet makes a storybook to help her talk to her father about his smoking inside the house. She can't confront her dad because "we're not supposed to bug mom and dad, or correct them if they do something we don't like."

So she creates a fable about a dragon with two heads named Smoggy and Claire. The kids on the floor all jolt backward when the dragon emerges with a roar and a flutter of red and gold tinsel.

Red-eyed Smoggy smokes and breathes fire "when he gets nervous," confides Claire, who sneezes and coughs whenever this happens. After some conversation by the two heads and an appearance by a pair of singing lungs, Smoggy admits he feels bad breathing fire and making Claire sick — and stops. The girl's dad, who is not as totalitarian as he seems at first, says he'll try to quit too. The end.

Of course, things aren't always that simple. "I'm trying to get my papa to stop smoking, but he keeps on smoking," says Isaiah Moore, 6, who attended last week's puppet show. S



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