CLINTON — Several area teens will be taking part in a Just Eliminate Lies demonstration on Wednesday in the parking lot of the former Eagle building on 13th Avenue North.

JEL is an organization of Iowa teens that promotes using facts about the dangers of cigarette smoking in an effort to discourage other teens from picking up the habit.

The group’s message has been conveyed in several television commercials where hundreds of white masked faces walk the streets representing the 1,200 people who die from cigarette smoking every day in the United States.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, more than 20 local teens will be participating in their own JEL demonstration.

Jennifer Gerdes, of the Breathe Easy Tobacco Coalition, is helping to coordinate the event and said the teens will be using sidewalk chalk to outline their bodies, hoping to fit 1,200 outlines chalked within the parking lot.

“The 1,200 bodies represent the 1,200 people who die every day from cigarette smoke,” Gerdes said.

The teens hope to get a very important message across to other local teenagers — don’t start smoking, and if you do smoke, quit.

“I want people to know how bad it can be on your body, especially if they start so young,” said Quinn Gunderson. “It really doesn’t help a kid to start smoking.”

Gunderson said she has a classmate who has been smoking since she was 9. The girl is now 14, and even though many have told this girl how much damage smoking can do to a person’s health, Gunderson said her friend is finding it hard to quit. She hopes many area people will come to see the demonstration.

“I want to get the message out that smoking is bad for you,” Gunderson said.

Kiara Williams is participating in the demonstration because she knows smoking is a bad habit.

“I think it’s really bad for people to start smoking. They say one cigarette is like seven seconds off your life. It’s really dangerous for your body,” Williams said. “They’re ruining their life and they just don’t understand. It’s really sad.”

Christian Van Pelt used to smoke cigarettes. With the help of friends and family, she’s been smoke free for quite a while.

“I used to smoke a lot with my buddies, when I had bad buddies,” Van Pelt said. “When I stopped, I started chewing gum. I finally stopped smoking and now I don’t crave it anymore.”

She is hoping to help other teens quit smoking.

“I want to tell my friends what it can do to them. I really think area teens should go to a place where they can see a healthy lung and a smoker’s lung. It’s pretty gross,” she added.

Gabi Hoffman also hopes to help other kids quit smoking. She has seen it firsthand at her school where the kids go around the side of a building and light up cigarettes. She said part of the problem is adults who set bad examples by smoking themselves or not punishing their children for smoking.

“The adults should take charge. Some adults know the kids who smoke but just don’t do anything about it,” Hoffman said. “My grandma died a couple years ago from smoking. I want to let people know you lose your loved ones because of it.”

Laece Combs has also seen kids at her school who smoke.

“Kids think it’s cool nowadays and some don’t care what it does to you,” Combs said. “They won’t listen when you tell them how bad it is.”

All of the girls hope people will come to the demonstration and that by learning the truth about the dangers of smoking, it will motivate some smokers to quit.

“I’ve known people that have quit. I know if you try really hard to stop, you can do it. There’s lots of things you can do other than smoke,” Hoffman said.

The girls suggested many activities including shopping, athletics, talking on the phone, going to movies, volunteering in the community or doing chores at home.

They say the demonstration may even keep some area kids from ever starting to smoke cigarettes.

“It’s very important because when you grow up you don’t want to have cancer,” said Gunderson.

Williams said the choice to quit smoking or to never start is up to everyone to decide for themselves, but she hopes area kids will make the right choice.

“Just try to stay a regular kid as long as you can and don’t grow up too fast,” Williams said. “Hang out with the right people and make your own decisions.”

This Week's Circulars