Cancer Survivor Warns Students Of Smoking Dangers - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

11/20/03

Cancer Survivor Warns Students Of Smoking Dangers

Thursday was the Great American Smokeout, the day the American Cancer Society dedicates to encourage smokers to kick the habit for good. Unfortunately, it's estimated more than 7,000 Mississippi teens will start smoking this year. Johnny Pohlmann wants to change those statistics.

He spent the day showing elementary students why they should never start smoking. Pohlmann showed students at Nicholson Elementary School what 20 years of smoking gave him.

"They gave me this bag. They give me this cool cap. They even gave me this Marlboro jacket," Pohlmann said. But he couldn't hide what else smoking gave him - throat cancer.

"I thought I was really cool smoking, and then it came down to this for me - it is not cool."

Surgeries cut out the cancer and much of his throat. He has no voice box or vocal cords and uses an artificial larynx machine to communicate.

"This is what's called a trachea tube. This is what I've got to stick down my throat where this hole is, at night to sleep with it. It's painful."

Pohlmann says he started smoking when he was 17. Doctors discovered he had cancer when he was 41. Ever since then, life has been tough. For example, he says, taking a shower could drown him.

"It's hard for me to ride in a boat, I have to ride backwards in a boat. If ya'll ever light a cigarette, think of Mr. Johnny and think of what I go through."

Students heard his warning.

"I could actually feel his pain because he's got a hole in his throat. It sent to me a message about you don't need to smoke cause it can really harm you," 6th grader Samantha Allen said.

Her classmate Justin Smith echoed her words. "I don't want to start smoking."

"It made me not want to smoke it made me not even want to be around cigarettes," 12 year old Sharonda Jackson said.

Pohlmann has spent the past seven years sharing his story with students. It's a message he wishes could have gotten across to him when he was their age.

by Al Showers

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