Copiah native helping to teach ‘Truth’ about tobacco

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 31, 2007

CRYSTAL SPRINGS – A Copiah County native is making waves acrossthe country by teaching young people through the Truth Anti-TobaccoCampaign that it’s OK to say no to tobacco.

Crystal Springs’ own Jason Thompson, 25, doubles as a hip-hopartist and an anti-tobacco advocate, traveling to places like NewYork City and Chicago and working with young people of all ages.Thompson passes along the message of Truth, whose popular”anti-drug” commercials made the group famous in recent years.

“Actually I’ve worked with kids of all ages since I worked withthe summer YMCA programs in Jackson,” said Thompson, adding thatwas where he got the experience he needed to start working with theTruth crew in 2006. “What we do is we execute events before a gameor a concert and we try to work with teens and young adults toeducate them about tobacco in an enviroment where they’recomfortable and not feeling preached to.”

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The Crystal Springs High School and University of Mississippigraduate said part of the reason he feels his message and his workare important is because young adults need hope in today’s world.They need an option, he said, to following societal norms.

“African-Americans don’t have a lot of positive causes broughtto young people by young people,” he said. “It’s important kidsknow about tobacco and the risks associated to their health.”

His mission is somewhat personally driven, Thompson said, as hisfamily has suffered through a tobacco-related death.

“My grandfather was a smoker and he died before I ever met him,”Thompson said. “One out of three smokers eventually die fromtobacco-related illnesses.”

He said he noticed the tolls tobacco will take on the human bodyat a young age, which influenced him to try to do something aboutit.

“I never personally smoked, but I had a lot of friends who didand some of the teachers I had smoked, and I noticed the physicaldeterioration,” he said. “I didn’t really associate the healthdefects with it until I got old enough to understand. I mean, myfather smoked when I was younger, we tried to steal his cigarettesand hide them.”

Thompson said part of his goal has been not only to reach out tothe public, but to reach his own family as well.

“I tried to give my information to my sister to make herconsider stopping smoking,” he said. “My father has stopped, and mysister is trying to stop now, partially because of the work I’vedone on this cause.”

And the tobacco problem is universal, he said. It is not limitedto small towns, nor to the South, nor just to any one family or agegroup.

“New York, where I am now, is so very diverse,” he said. “Youcan see all the people, and they’re all different kinds of peoplethat we talk to and see that they’re all affected by tobacco.

“Regardless of where you’re from or where you grow up, itaffects your life.”

Statistics on Truth’s Web site indicate the movement continuesto be a relevant and driving force in teen culture.

In February 2005, the American Legacy Foundation released theresults of an evaluation of the national Truth campaign that waspublished in the American Journal of Public Health which found that22 percent of the overall decline in youth smoking, or 300,000smokers, during the first two years of the campaign (2000-2002) wasdirectly attributable to Truth.

Thompson said he wants to continue to keep up the good work,reaching kids in whatever way he can. He said Truth has given himthe platform he needed.

“Basically I’m in music and I want to use my music to dopositive things in all walks of life,” he said. “I want to continueto move young people to make decisions that will empower them tolead more fruitful lives.”