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Decayed teeth, lungs effects of use, students told

June 28, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — A mold of yellowed and decayed teeth and a plaster mold of a decayed lung decorated tables at the Tobacco Free Youth Summit on Wednesday at the Barbara Worth Golf Resort.

Hosted by the Imperial County Office of Education's student well-being and family resources division, the summit offered tobacco education workshops to 43 students in attendance.

The workshops informed the students of the dangers of tobacco use and the way the media manipulates advertising of tobacco products.

"Our goal is to educate the students about tobacco and hopefully they take something with them," said summit coordinator Lucy Hernandez, a prevention specialist for the ICOE.

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Hernandez said the summit targeted junior high students "because it's probably the first time they are exposed to it."

She estimated about 80 percent of junior high students have tried tobacco.

"We want to try to teach the dangers of tobacco use and the health issues," said Hernandez.

Students attended a "Tobacco 101" workshop taught by Terri Shiffer of the Imperial County Tobacco Education project.

Whispers of "No way," and "Nah" echoed when Shiffer explained to the students there are more than 4,000 chemicals in one cigarette.

"That's why you're here. We know your friends who are experimenting with smoking are starting at your age," Shiffer said.

She showed a short video of what happens to the body when a person smokes and the students played a "Tobacco Jeopardy" game.

In the "Media Manipulation" workshop, taught by Nanette Conway, a training manager at ICOE, students learned how to analyze ads and determine the techniques of advertisers.

Joanna Mares, 14, a 10th- grader from Sylmar High School in the San Fernando Valley, said she heard about the summit from her dad, who lives in El Centro.

She said she wanted to come to "learn how people are."

Joanna said, "It's interesting to realize how people are trying to get you into smoking."

She said she has a few friends who smoke but don't pressure her to smoke with them.

"But they do treat you differently if you don't," Joanna admitted.

Selenne Gonzalez, 14, a ninth-grader at Southwest High School in El Centro, said she had already heard about the dangers of smoking from presentations in school.

"I wanted to learn more about smoking and drugs," said Selenne of why she came to the summit.

She said she is more confident now that she has more information about tobacco and said she realizes "people are lying to themselves" when they smoke.

"A crucial age is 13 or 14," said Sabrina Yrungaray, a health education specialist from the Tri-County South Regional Tobacco Free project.

The Tri-County South project, which covers San Bernadino, Riverside and Imperial counties, helped fund Wednesday's summit.

Yrungaray said it is important to educate junior high students about the dangers of tobacco use.

"Peer pressure is big and they're still finding themselves and who they're going to be," she said.

"By high school, it's too late. They've already decided which clique or group they're going to be a part of," said Yrungaray.

"Them being more educated gives them an edge when they're deciding to choose to smoke or not," Yrungaray said.

The Tri-County project is funded by Proposition 99, the state tobacco tax, and hosts an annual summit for students from all three counties.

The students' seemed to have learned from Wednesday's summit.

Erick Belloso, 13, a ninth-grader at Southwest, said he learned from the video shown in the Tobacco 101 workshop.

"Your lungs look like carne asada if you get cancer," said Erick.

Said Marco Martinez, 13, an eighth-grader at Wilson Junior High in El Centro: "I'm going to try not to smoke and stay tobacco-free."

Antonio Gomez, 11, a seventh-grader at Kennedy Middle School in El Centro, said he thinks it is important to teach tobacco education to junior high students.

"That's when they make their decision," said Antonio.

He said he learned about tobacco's dangers when he was at a fifth-grade camp.

Antonio said he attended the summit because, "I wanted to know about what smoking does to you."

He paused, and then confessed, "And because my dad brought me."

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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