DAILY LEADER . JUSTIN VICORY / Dancers selected from schools in the state entertain and educate school children about the dangers of tobacco usage at Mamie Martin Elementary School as part of a Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Thursday afternoon.
DAILY LEADER . JUSTIN VICORY / Dancers selected from schools in the state entertain and educate school children about the dangers of tobacco usage at Mamie Martin Elementary School as part of a Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Thursday afternoon.

Tobacco-free lifestyle promoted through video, dance

Published 12:10pm Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preventing school kids from getting started on smoking or other forms of tobacco use is what the Tobacco Free Zone program is all about.

Elementary students from Mamie Martin participated in this healthy, preventive program on the dangers of tobacco Thursday. The program used video and dance to help the children identify with the message.

Brookhaven resident and project director of the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition, Lori Carter is responsible for delivering the message of a healthy lifestyle independent of tobacco to students from kindergarten to 12th grade in Copiah and Lincoln County.

Much of the message to the children concerned immediate issues that children should be concerned with, such as secondhand smoke, but some of the program was geared towards potential future behavior and choices.

The kids were introduced to peer pressure and the difficult, yet smart decision to remain clear of negative influences.

According to Carter, the program has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of tobacco usage since 1999. At that time, the percentage of high school teens that smoked was close to 30 percent of all students. Since that time, Carter and others claim credit for reducing that percentage to what it stands at today, 18 percent.

The key, says Carter, is to get to the kids when they are young.

“It’s vital for us to inform and educate kids at an early age. They might have parents or relatives who smoke or use tobacco. It’s important to make them aware of the potential dangers,” said Carter.

Youth Program Director of the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, Susan Ellis often works with Carter, and the program is funded by the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. Ellis says the performers at Thursday’s event put on at least 10 shows a month all over the state.

“We put on different shows for different ages,” said Ellis. “The goal is to remind students every year about the importance of developing a healthy lifestyle. By the time they graduate from high school, we hope our message has sunk in,” said Ellis.

The performers at the tobacco-free event have their own incentive to help kids avoid tobacco. The dancers that perform before school children across the state go through an audition process. Once selected, they will receive a college scholarship when they are college-aged.