Students investigate dangers of tobacco

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 18, 2010

When Willie Walker, a seventh-grader at Alexander Junior HighSchool, drew his hand on the poster marked, “Pledges,” it was apromise to help change things for the better.

Inside the outline of his hand, Walker wrote the word, “Mom.” Onthe same poster were hands for “Dad,” another “Mom,” and “Grandma(Theresa).” Each hand represented a pledge to help a loved one quitsmoking before the ravages of smoking gave them no choice.

The exercise was a part of CSI: Tobacco, a three-day afterschool program aimed at teaching junior high students reasons notto get involved with tobacco products.

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“It stands for Cigarette Smoke Investigation,” said MS TobaccoFree Coalition of Copiah and Lincoln County Program Director LoriCarter. “The first day we went over the 4,000 chemicals incigarettes, and talked about household products they know insteadof the chemical names.”

The group also discussed the chemicals in smokeless tobacco, andthe dangers involved, but the real kicker for the group was theidea of how a pack a day would affect their wallets. Carter saidthey totaled up the amount of money it would take to buy a pack ofcigarettes at $4 a day for the next 50 years, and it came to around$78,000.

“A lot of them said, ‘Wow, I could buy a house with that,’ or ‘Icould buy some cars for that,'” she said. “It really hit home tothem what they could purchase with the money instead of doingsomething that wasn’t good for them.”

Carter said the group discussed the fact that 13 Mississippiansand 1,205 people nationwide die of tobacco-related illness everyday. She said they put those numbers side by side with the total ofseveral kinds of other deaths, including how many people die foralcohol-related reasons and drug overdoses and those combineddidn’t match the tobacco deaths.

“We also hit a little bit on second-hand smoke, and that reallygot to them when they realized that not only are their loved onesthat are smoking affected, but they are too,” Carter said.

And on Thursday, the last day of the weeklong event, the groupput up three pieces of paper. One said, “Victims,” one said,”Facts,” and the other said, “Pledges.”

“If they had someone they knew that passed away, they couldoutline their hand, and write the name of someone who had died of atobacco-related cause on the victims page,” Carter said. “On thepledge page, they’d draw their hand and pledge that they would helpwhoever it was stop smoking.”

If they didn’t have someone to help and hadn’t lost someone,they could outline their hand and post a fact they had learnedduring the week on the “facts” page.

“And we sent home magnets with the 1-800 quit line that offerscounseling to anyone who wants to quit smoking,” Carter said.”They’d say, ‘I’m going to give this to my dad, my grandmother, myaunt.’ All of them had someone in mind.”