L.E.A.D conference teaches tobacco prevention to teens - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

L.E.A.D conference teaches tobacco prevention to teens

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) -

In Hattiesburg, 253 Mississippi teenagers learned about tobacco prevention Monday morning at the Lake Terrace Convention Center.

Within the state, 1,300, will be informed by the end of the year. However, 69,000 Mississippi teens under 18 will ultimately die prematurely from smoking, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. A Mississippi State Department of Health program called Generation Free tries to put a dent in that number through L.E.A.D: Leadership, Engagement, and Activism Development Conference.

Believe it or not, the program uses a flash mob to  help teach teens tobacco prevention.

"Every flash mob is a way to portray activism with a message," said Youth Programs Coordinator for Generation Free, Frederick Walley.

The message: One out of three tobacco users will eventually die of a tobacco related illness. Walley says conveying such an important message to teenagers has to be done in a way they'll remember.

"We find that this helps implement the message without drilling it verbally, over and over," said Walley.

Walley's  job today is to help reduce youth tobacco use.

"What happens is, on thing can lead to another. So, by snipping cigarettes in the bud they may snip other things. We are not here just promoting tobacco prevention this is over all wellness thinking," said Walley.

Thinking of certain realities like, what one and three looks like. At the end of the flash mob selected kids holding a bandana, which says "I AM ONE", which shows them who would be the casualties out of a percentage of smokers. An unbelievable reality for Stone County High School Senior, Corban Ainsworth.

"I didn't realize the statistic was like that. It blows my mind," said Ainsworth.

Another prevention measure is advertising. Generation Free displays quotes from tobacco companies to show the teens just how the companies view them. One says quote,"Today's teenager is tomorrow's potential regular customer."

"I didn't realize that the tobacco industry puts so much into advertising. They think of all these fancy ways I never would have even thought of," said Ainsworth.

West Jones High School Student, Samantha Dean, who serves as a Generation Free Youth Advisory Board Member, teaches students how to fight a different persuasion.

"I do believe that peer pressure is still an issue. It is very prevalent among teenagers," said Dean.

Walley believes some people may view tobacco as the lesser evil in comparison to what dangers teenagers can get in to, but he feels that it all starts with tobacco.

"People fail to realize tobacco has become accepted a little more in our society. It is a gateway drug. It will lead to other things. We focus on tobacco, but the things we teach can be applied  to anything else," said Walley.

Copyright 2012 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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