Mississippi 7th and 8th grade students are learning about the harmful effects of tobacco use. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports.
More than 100 students from across central Mississippi met yesterday on the campus of Hinds Community College in Pearl for some straight talk about tobacco use. 17 year old Samantha Dean of West Jones High School in Laurel is one of the groups advisory board members.
"This message is really important because 69 thousand Mississippi youth under the age of 18 will eventually die from a tobacco related illness. And if we can decrease that number in any way that is just a step towards a brighter goal and a brighter for all these kids."
"Smoking can affect their performance whether they're in sports. Smoke can prematurely age individuals, could cause premature wrinkles. And almost a million dollars is spent per hour just on advertising so we want youth to be aware of that and just make educated choices."
Brad Martin is with the Mississippi Department of Health's Office of Tobacco Control. He says the average age of children who try cigarettes for the first time is around 13. Many of them he says are setting themselves up for a lifetime of suffering.
"And if you ask any smoker or person that uses tobacco, spit tobacco, even the e cigarettes these day. They started out because maybe it was cool or they felt peer pressure but now they are using it because they are addicted. If we can just get one kid not to start we've done our job."
15 years ago 23% of middle school students in Mississippi smoked, Today that number is less than 6%. And while that's encouraging news for Suzanne Ellis with the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi she says there is still more work to be done.
While the state has seen a reduction in the number of adults and children smoking, Ellis believes policy changes like a statewide smoke free law is needed to continue the progress. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.