Teens join movement against Big Tobacco - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Teens join movement against Big Tobacco

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – About 200 South Mississippi teenagers will soon be on the front lines in the battle against Big Tobacco.

"Second hand smoke affects the development of a baby's brain."

"Smoking while you're pregnant affects the development of the child."

Those were just some of the messages they heard Tuesday during a LEAD Conference in Biloxi. LEAD stands for Leadership, Engagement, and Activism Development.  The high school students learned how to lead the movement against smoking, especially among young people.

"This is basically a call to action. We want to disseminate the message among as many people as possible.  And with us reaching this group, we certainly hope we can make a difference," said Dena Pope, Youth Programs Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Health Office of Tobacco Control.

The teens created eye-catching posters and bandanas, with words that inform people about the deadly effects of tobacco use.  They also learned how small, inexpensive toys can be effective tools in spreading the message that tobacco kills.

One instructor held up baby doll with a piece of paper attached.

"I put a fact on there, representing how second hand smoke affects children," he explained.

According to the Mississippi Health Department, 20-percent of Mississippi youth are smokers. And 69,000 high school students in our state will eventually die from smoking.

Some of the teens at the conference know first-hand about the dangers of smoking. Jennifer Ladner of Ocean Springs High School lost her grandfather to a smoking-related illness.

"The tobacco industry is really targeting youth. They're really using us as targets, as replacement smokers as they call us," said Ladner.  "We really need to step up and for our generation to speak and get the word out there that tobacco is not a good thing."

Jennifer helped push for a no-smoking ordinance in parks around Ocean Springs. She wants to inspire other teens to join her and become an anti-smoking activist.

"They can stand up for anything they believe in and they can make an impact as youth," said Ladner.

The LEAD Conference was part of the Mississippi Health Department's Generation Free Program.  Members will make other stops this week in Jackson, Greenville and Tupelo.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly