Anti-tobacco group targets student use

SUQUAMISH — Poulsbo Junior High School ninth graders Ali Marks, Ellen Hess, Sarah Trapp and Hilary Leonard recognize the importance of educating their younger counterparts in the classroom — no ifs, ands or “butts” about it.

The quartet visited Suquamish Elementary School April 25 to discuss the dangers of tobacco use with Jan Kragen’s fifth/sixth grade class.

The ninth-graders, who are members of Teens Against Tobacco Use, left a lasting impression on the class.

“They were very confident and self-assured,” Kragen said. “They knew what they were talking about and were very prepared. They presented everything by themselves without any help from me. The kids in the classroom can see that.”

The ninth-graders set up a wide array of activities showing the hazardous effects cigarette smoking has on the body.

The first question Leonard asked the fifth/sixth grade class was, “What can you do in seven minutes?”

Students responded: “I can do my math homework,” “I play a game of solitaire,” “I can read two chapters of a book.” “I could finish a puzzle” and “I could go to the batting cages.”

When the group had answered the question, Leonard then informed the classroom of a startling statistic.

“Every cigarette someone smokes takes seven minutes off of their life,” she said.

During the second exercise Marks, Hess, Trapp and Leonard led students through an even more graphic display of the hazardous consequences of smoking cigarettes.

Each student was handed a piece of red licorice. After biting off the end of one side of a piece, students jogged in place for exactly one minute. Following that minute each student plugged their nose and breathed through their mouth through the piece of licorice.

“Is it pretty hard to breathe?,” Trapp asked. “This is what it feels like for someone who has emphysema to breathe all of the time.”

The third exercise was titled, “What should a cigarette ad look like?” Each TATU member was in charge of a group of four or five elementary students as they brainstormed what a real cigarette ad campaign should look like. Yellow teeth, depression and poor physical condition were a few of answers elementary students came up with.

Kragen said she believes the exercises will stick in the minds of elementary students for years to come.

“The activities the kids did today are things they will remember in the future,” Kragen said. “I really liked the presentation they did on how real cigarette advertising campaigns should look like.”

Elementary students look up to junior high students, she said.

“They really look forward to having junior high students come down for a visit. They’re pretty close to being in the same peer group,” Kragen said. “It gives them a chance to meet with the older kids and find out what to expect when they reach junior high.”

Marks joined TATU because she wants to do everything she can to prevent young people from smoking.

“I want to help make a difference in their lives,” she said. “It’s really important.”

Hess said the hands-on approach will help show elementary students how detrimental the effects of smoking can be.

“It’s fun to actually get involved in all of these activities we did today,” she said. “You can see that they really understand how bad smoking is.”

Leonard agreed with Hess’ assessment.

“I like how our program reiterates the information we gave them in a creative way,” Leonard said. “I hope it sticks with them.”

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