STUDENTS from schools across the island benefited from an informative, eye-opening Anti-Tobacco Youth Forum staged by the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) Wednesday at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston.

The event included video and audiovisual presentations, and talks from representatives from the Ministry of Health; National Chest Hospital; National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA); Heart Foundation of Jamaica; and the Association of General Practitioners.

There were collective gasps and sounds of disgust from the young audience as they viewed graphic images of the damage to the body caused by smoking, including rotting body parts.

Held under the theme ‘#MekWiTalk’, this sixth staging of the forum focused on adolescent risky behaviours, empowering young adults and obesity among youth.

During the event, students also signed a petition calling on the Government to institute a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS).

Tobacco contributes to cancers of the lung, mouth, lips, nose, sinuses, voice box, throat, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, cervix, colon, rectum and ovaries, as well as myeloid leukaemia.

According to a 2010 NCDA study, Jamaican youth begin smoking as early as 13 years of age. Additionally, the data shows that at least 44.4 per cent of students have smoked at least once, 31.3 per cent smoked a tobacco product and 20.2 per cent have smoked cigarettes.

The JCS’ third Anti-Tobacco Poster competition was also launched during the forum. Sponsored by Jamaica National, this year’s contest will be held under the theme ‘In the Fight Against Tobacco’.

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