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Welcome to the Cold Turkey House

The Cold Turkey House is a product of Question It, Mississippi's teen tobacco awareness campaign launched in March 1999. A group of young Mississippians are trying to give up smoking for one week while under 24-hour Internet surveillance. The group already lost one member.

The group of strangers began their weeklong stint in the Cold Turkey program on Sunday. One participant, Kacy, failed to make it to the apartment on Sunday. If the four remaining participants, David, Errolle, Julia and Will can resist lighting up a pack of cigarettes, each wins $500.

Today Show interview
Today Show Interviews Participants

They live in a two-bedroom apartment that has a tempting pack of cigarettes in a jar on the living room table. An camera maintains survellience and sends images 24X7 to the Internet.

Internet viewers can participate as they control how easy or difficult the strangers' quest will be with the click of a mouse. What spectators choose can fuel or quench participants' desire to light up, and that may kindle conflict.

Temptation Table
Temptation Table

Like characters on the current run of reality shows, Cold Turkey's cast members, all from the Jackson, Mississippi area, want to be known by their first names. Though their faces will be etched into viewers' computer screens, they prefer to preserve a little privacy.

The participants will have to fight the urge to smoke unopened packs of their preferred cigarettes and cigars, which will be in the apartment throughout the week. "It's not easy to quit smoking, so we want kids to see how it is when they're not able to smoke," says Tim Mask, spokesman for the partnership.

That First Puff Came Early for the Show's Stars
David, who decided to audition for Cold Turkey on his own, says most of his chums smoke. At 15, he stole a pack of cigarettes from his older brother and "just went at it from there." "I wanna quit smoking. I thought this was going to be some kind of joke and never thought I would get asked to participate. I'm here now so I might as well quit."

David's photo

Julia says she started smoking out of spite. "I had a boyfriend who smoked, so I did it to make him mad because he didn't want me to smoke."

When asked about the temptations within the house, she said "there's a jar sittin' in the middle of the coffee table with a pack of cigarettes and a pack of cigars. An Internet camera waches us all the time so we can never touch it."

Julia's photo

Errolle, 20, plans to bring a calm demeanor, hip-hop and jazz CDs, and a green notebook filled with rhyming prose -- a couple of lines of which are dedicated to the ill effects of tobacco.

Errolle says he's doing this to "get some informatin on exactly how bad this product is."

Errolle's photo

When asked about the viewers participating in the program, Will says that, "I think what they're trying to do is they'll have episodes so you can help us out by voting for good things like Swedish massages as opposed to Cardio Combat.

It's just another way of showing how really difficult this can be." Will hopes viewers will be "nice to us."

Will's photo

sources: NBC TODAY SHOW, July 31, 2000 (images)
USA Today (Aug 1, 2000)
AP (Aug 1, 2000)

With nearly 700,000 hits this week, the interactive Internet Cold Turkey show is inspiring some smokers to consider quitting, cast members say.

"We've had several e-mails from people saying 'If you guys can quit cold turkey, so can I,' " said David, one of the four cast members, trying to survive a week inside a Flowood apartment without lighting up. . .

Pamela Luckett, manager of the state's Tobacco Quitline, said her agency has been getting about 50 calls per day this week. Many callers have commented about the Cold Turkey show, she said.

"The calls have increased tremendously," she said. "There are a lot of people out there who want to quit."

Luckett said publicity about the Internet show coincided with a television ad campaign about the Tobacco Quitline.

"The visibility of it has made people realize that they can get help somewhere," she said. . .

The final episode of Cold Turkey will be filmed at 4 p.m. today and shown on the Internet Sunday.

(Jackson, MS) Clarion-Ledger (Aug 5, 2000)

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