Lee County High School students are leading an effort to convince people in their community not to smoke. They partnered with the South Georgia Cancer Coalition for an anti-tobacco use program tonight. Some people who suffered because of their smoking shared emotional stories.
More than 10,000 Georgians die each year from tobacco use. Lee County ranks second in lung cancer rates in the Southwest health district. Some Lee County students have a mission to educate the community on the dangers of tobacco use.
Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in Georgia and the United States. For Melvin Hooks his fifteen years of smoking began when he started working as a welder.
"A lot of people that's usually out in the world using their hands and stuff it becomes kind of like a mental thing where you're kind of programmed," said Melvin Hooks.
Hooks says he's tried quitting before and is encouraging his son to break the habit.
That's the message "Kick Butts Day" is sending to youth. The anti-tobacco event put on by Cancer Coalition of South Georgia and a group of students known as "Trojans against Tobacco" is helping to raise awareness about the harms of tobacco use.
"There's various types of cancers that result from prolonged tobacco use, also diabetes, heart disease," said Kimberly Scott with the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia.
Janice Hayes is a living example of the harmful effects of smoking. She started smoking at the age of 13 and at 45 she found out she had a tumor on her vocal chords. Hayes underwent surgery to have them removed and she now speaks with a voice prosthesis.
"I use to think well I'll smoke until I'm old and I"ll die at 80 instead of 90. I thought I could live with that. You just never really think about having to live with a smoke related illness," said Janice Hayes.
In January, the Lee County School board approved a policy prohibiting anyone using tobacco at all school sponsored activities.
"Even though I'm graduating in May I am thankful that kids behind me have the chance to go to school where faculty, students, no one will be smoking and that's really important," said Chelsey Shirley with the "Trojans Against Tobacco" Coalition.
Lee County is the 97th school system in the State to pass the 100% tobacco free policy. Officials with the Cancer Coalition say there are resources to help smokers wanting to quit. You can find them by clicking here.