PINOLE — Students at Ellerhorst Elementary School do not want cigarettes near their school — real ones or otherwise.
Fifth-graders in Frank Marrero's class made that point Monday with a mock funeral to protest candy cigarettes being sold out of ice cream trucks near the school and the attempt to lure youngsters into smoking.
"We don't want our future to be bad just so someone else can make a dollar," fifth-grader Sophia Ramirez said.
The children gathered outside the school, dressed in black and acting out a funeral procession for kids who took up smoking. Marrero said students learned about the physical effects of smoking after they brought the candy cigarettes to his attention.
They wanted to know what could be done, so Marrero helped them come up with the funeral idea. The students also wrote to the Pinole City Council, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Barack Obama.
"I wanted to dramatize that cigarettes are about death, and that candy cigarettes lead to real cigarettes," Marrero said. "Moneyed interests think their freedoms are more important than kids' rights. It's like saying kids don't matter; money matters."
Councilman Timothy Banuelos attended the funeral, informing students that Pinole leaders expanded the city's anti-smoking ordinance last month. Smoking is now banned on balconies of multifamily buildings that are within 20 feet of other residential units' balconies, windows or ventilation intake ducts, as well as in common areas of apartment complexes and generally within 20 feet of residences. The law also removes exemptions that allow businesses such as bars, bowling alleys and smoke shops to have designated smoking areas.
Shelly Meron covers education in West Contra Costa. Follow her at Twitter.com/shellymeron.