CHESTER - Jeffrey Tice is old enough to know that peer pressure cuts both ways.
When it comes to smoking, Tice, 19, of Chester is interested in the kind of pressure that keeps young people from starting.
"I'm not the kind of person who would go up to somebody and tell them, 'You need to stop doing that.' To me, it's all about education, and we hope that by educating you, you feel compelled to stop smoking," he said.
Tice, a 2011 graduate of Oak Glen High School, has been active in the cause of anti-tobacco education for five years. Now, as a communications major at West Liberty University, he's taking his involvement to the state and national level.
Tice participated in the ninth-annual Youth Advocacy Symposium of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C. He and 28 other young people received training and participated in skill-building workshops on leadership, advocacy and communications.
Tice called it an opportunity to "recharge my tobacco prevention batteries."
The symposium focused on, among other things, pending legislation in Congress that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says would weaken the regulation of flavored cigars - cigars with "sweet flavors, low prices and colorful packaging that appeal to youth," a campaign news release said.
The young people at the training conference learned that, in 2009, Congress passed a law that gave the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products. Legislation currently before Congress would remove premium cigars, including Swisher Sweets, Phillies and similar brands, from such regulation, making it easier for companies to market them to young people, according to the Campaign.
Tice said he's never been tempted to smoke, but he knows teenagers who smoke or use smokeless tobacco. "Everybody kind of knew I wasn't going to do it, no matter how much peer pressure there was," he said.
Around the time he was a freshman in high school, Tice got involved in anti-smoking activities because family members had suffered adverse health effects from smoking. In classes, he learned that smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States.
"That's just something I didn't want West Virginia to be known for anymore," he said.
In West Virginia, an estimated 19.1 percent of high school students smoke cigarettes. That's higher than the national average. Smokeless tobacco also is a serious issue, Tice said.
Tice's activism began with a statewide youth initiative known as Raze. Tice worked as a crew leader for Raze at Oak Glen and then served on the Raze Teen Advisory Council.
"To raze means to tear down, and we were there to tear down the lies of the tobacco companies," he said.
Now in college, he's continuing his work as a youth advocate for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
"When talking to youth, you talk about the manipulative marketing techniques that the tobacco industry uses," he said.