Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingEvery day more than 12-hundred smokers die of causes related to tobacco. But sadly, every day hundreds more people step forward to replace them, picking up a cigarette for the first time.
The vast majority of new smokers are teenagers, some of them children. That's why there are growing efforts to stop them from smoking before they ever start.
At James Logan High School in Union City kids are getting a lesson that could save their lives.
Elizabeth Mesghina, "It’s about teens and educating their peers about tobacco use and how you can prevent it."
They're learning about the dangers of smoking, how it turns healthy lungs black, how it affects your appearance. No fact is too disgusting.
Kebret Tekle, "Wow, I never knew that things you find in your urine and are in tobacco."
It's an important message to get out. Studies show that by the age of 11 one third of children have experimented with smoking. By 16 fully two thirds have tried it. 90 percent of smokers are hooked before they reach 21.
Anti-tobacco educators like Tina Cheung say there's nothing cool about Destroying your health. For Tina the decision to get involved in educating other teens was easy.
Tina Cheung, Anti-smoking Activist, "I started because my grandfather, he actually smoked. I just saw the effects, the health effects it had on him, and I thought I should do something about it."
Tina faces a tough opponent. The tobacco industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year promoting its products, giving them a youthful, fun, sexy image.
Against that anti-tobacco educators have seen their funding dry up because of big state budget cuts. So they depend on other teens to get the message out one person at a time.
Tina Cheung, Anti-smoking Activist "You are a peer, you are young, the fact that you are not the person standing in front of them in the health class saying ‘No you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that."
A lot of teens at James Logan High School seem to be getting the message.
Teen: "You just mess up your life when you smoke."
Teen: "I think they're killing themselves"
Teen: "I don't think it's cool to have yellow teeth and your breath smells really wretched."
The message is simple-- it's easier to stop someone from becoming addicted than to get someone who is addicted to stop.
It's hoped the message will be loud and clear when it comes from someone who is a lot like you. Teens teaching other teens, it's a method that works.
There's also been a push to get an 'R' rating put on movies that show smoking and are directed at kids. 52-percent of kids who started smoking were influenced by the smoking they saw in movies.