HATTIESBURG, Miss. -According to the American Lung Association, every day almost 3,900 children under 18 will try their first cigarette. One state organization is trying to beat that statistic with Mississippi's youth.
The group Generation FREE is hosting 'Inspiring Future leaders Youth Conference. iFLY's main purpose is to educate middle school students on how they can help reduce youth tobacco use.
"Being drug free, you can get a better future and, I have big plans for my future," said Cassidy Dearman, Leakesville Junior High eighth grader.
She said the speaker Shaun Derik, New York musician and motivation speaker did a good job making the information relevant to her and her peers.
"He's actually saying things that we can relate to," she said.
"I use real stories of people who made it in life, who didn't let certain things detour them," said Derik. He mainly uses music to teach the students.
"If I put music in my presentation, the likelihood of them forgetting my presentation is slim to none," he said. "We're trying to get them to remember the gifts that they have because there's dreams and there's detours,"
The coordinator of the conference, Frederick Wiley, said those detours could create fatalities.
"Ultimately 69,000 youth under the age of 18 will die from tobacco related-illnesses," he said. "We hope the youth get communication, leadership and team building skills that they can use to educate their peers on tobacco.
The conference is sponsored by the Mississippi State Department of Health.