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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 12:55 GMT
'I'm really going to try to give up now'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Toby Warmington
Toby Warmington plans to cut down
Toby Warmington is a smoker, but is desperate to stop.

Until last week the 15-year-old smoked 10 cigarettes every day.

Then he saw a talk warning of the dangers of mouth cancer.

He was so shocked by the horrific images he was shown, that it has given him new motivation to quit.

"The talk was well good, " he said. "It put me off smoking and my friends who didn't smoke said they had been put off smoking for life."

They should show this talk to the younger children when they are just starting secondary school, so they can be caught before they even start to smoke
Toby Warmington
CPS:LINK HREF="" ID="4427854" STYLE="rightarrow">Surgeons use shock tactics

Experts feel that by showing youngsters the horrific facial disfigurement left following the disease, they can shock image conscious teenagers to quit or never to start smoking.

And the tactics seemed to work with Toby.

"They showed us pictures of people before, then with the cancer and then after the operation.

"They just look so shocking after they have had mouth cancer.

"If you looked like that your life would be over, you wouldn't be able to go out, you look so shocking.

Cut down

"Since seeing the talk I have cut down quite a lot. Usually I will have 10 a day, but over the weekend I only had 10 cigarettes in total.

"The talk had a big impact on me.

"Everybody was talking about it and the people who saw it with me said they were so shocked.

"I think they should show this talk to the younger children when they are just starting secondary school, so they can be caught before they even start to smoke."

Throughout November oral and maxillofacial surgeons, who specialise in the treatment of mouth cancer, will go into secondary schools to show 12-13 year-olds vivid pictures of young patients with mouth cancer.

Another benefit of the talks is to educate about mouth cancer in general.

Research shows that as many as half of those with the disease did not know anything about it and delayed getting treatment, because they thought they simply had a mouth ulcer.

Mouth cancer kills up to a third of the people presenting with it, but experts say that figure that could reduced if people knew how to spot signs of the disease early.

More success

Jack Slight, another pupil at Tabor Science College, In Braintree, Essex, said he had halved his smoking habit, from 20-a-day, following the talk.

I think that if I had seen this talk when I was younger I would not have started to smoke
Jack Slight

"I have smoked now for about two years, but this talk got me thinking. It was really quite disgusting. Some people had to have their mouths cut open and their tongues cut out.

"I did not think of that at all when I started smoking.

"I am going to try and give up. I am cutting down the amount I smoke. I am just going to try and do it myself.

"My mum gave up about two years ago and she said she was going to help me give up.

"I think that if I had seen this talk when I was younger I would not have started to smoke."

Deterrent effect

Fellow student Joshua Gadenne, also 15, is a non-smoker and after the talk intends to keep it that way.

Joshua Gadenne
Joshua Gadenne is not tempted to start

"The pictures we saw were pretty horrific and it has certainly put me off wanting to start smoking. If I was ever tempted I would think back to those photos.

"My mum and some of my grandparent smoke. I told my mum about the talk and she said she would try to stop.

"She has been saying that for years, but if she had seen the pictures it would have certainly put her off. They were horrific and pretty gory.

"The worst thing was when we were told about a 16-year-old who had died from mouth cancer, he was just a year older than us.

"I had heard about mouth cancer, but I did not know any of the facts about it."


Senior teacher Helena Gee said the talk, by surgeon Iain Hutchison, had such a dramatic affect on the students that two girls had been in tears.

Helena Gee
Helena Gee was impressed by the impact

"I have been thinking about what I saw as well. On Sunday when I was falling asleep I got a graphic image from the talk in my head."

She said the school had a strict, but supportive policy on smoking. The parents of students caught smoking at the school are asked to come in and are told of their child's habit.

They are then asked if they would like to buy a drug test for their child, in case they were also abusing illegal drugs.

Children who persist in smoking in school are then be supervised during break times for a week, to avoid them having an opportunity to smoke.

Those who still continue are sent to a day care centre where people with smoking related diseases are treated to show them the effects of the disease - no-one at the school has yet reached this stage.

Successful strategy

Mr Hutchison, a maxillofacial surgeon based at Barts and the Royal London, Hospital and a member of Saving Faces, the Facial Surgery Research Foundation, said he was delighted his talk had been so effective.

He said he hoped the series of talks, by him and colleagues, will dramatically cut the number of children smoking.

"The surgeons believe this is a worthwhile project and they are providing their services free of charge because they feel it is so important to prevent smoking related diseases.

"We are now awaiting the results of a study we are doing into the smoking habits of 20,000 children to see whether it confirms our gut reactions that interventions like this do work."



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