Last Wednesday, members of Lyon County High School’s 4-H Teen Leadership organization presented the Teens Against Smoking program to fourth and fifth graders at Lyon County Elementary School. Lyons. It aims to educate students about the dangers of vaping, smoking, chewing tobacco, and other forms of tobacco.
The TATU program allows students to hear about the dangers of these products from older students, whom they often look up to as role models. High school students shared their own reasons for not using these products, including the risk of being kicked off sports teams and the negative health effects, leading to lower athletic performance.
Groups of high school students were placed in different classrooms between which primary students switched. Each room covered a different part of the curriculum and taught students about the different hazards of these products. In one room, the students were placed in a circle and given a ball to throw. Then they were forced to keep their arms at their sides, elbows tucked in, and keep trying to throw the ball. The students were told it was a demonstration of how the lungs are hampered by smoking and become weaker and less efficient.
Another room offered yet another demonstration of how these products can affect your lungs.
Students were asked to jog in place for about 10 seconds and then listen to their breathing. They observed that no one in the room was out of breath. They then had to hold their noses and breathe through a straw while jogging. This time, a few people gasped, and the students readily admitted that it was more difficult. Finally, they repeated the process with a coffee straw.
At the end, almost all the students were panting and all admitted that it was much more difficult. The students were told that these straws replicated how difficult it was to breathe after smoking, first for about a week and then for several years.
Students learned that their lungs, when completely flat, could cover the size of a football field. They were shown examples of how much tar and ash could build up while smoking, and they learned about all the ways smoking can affect your whole body. For example, smoking cigarettes can make you more susceptible to sprains, and smoking nicotine speeds up your heart rate and increases your risk of heart attack.
In one room, high school students provided examples of the types of chemicals in cigarettes and other products in which they can be found. They showed students nail polish remover, which contains toluene, which is also found in cigarettes. The paint thinner contained benzene and the glass cleaner contained ammonia.
All morning there had been a strong chemical smell in the hallway, and the students finally learned what was causing it in this room as well. Secondary school students produced moth balls as an example, which contain naphthalene. They placed these products and several others (all safely wrapped) in a pot and stirred them to show the students all the ingredients of cigarettes. Next, a jar of a mucus-like substance was distributed to demonstrate the type of buildup that can occur in your lungs.
One room covered the dangers of chewing tobacco. There were photos and a model of what can happen to your teeth and gums after using this product. Students were invited to touch the tongue of one of the models as he passed through the classroom. Some flatly refused. This could be because it was done after students were told that using these products can cause hair to grow on the tongue.
This year there was also a room that covered the dangers of vaping.
Vape pens (securely sealed in a bag) were distributed around the room for students to identify. This was one of the main components of this program; educate students early so they have the right information to make informed decisions. Students learned about “popcorn lung,” a scarring of lung tissue that can be caused by vaping. They also learned that vapes can contain small particles that can enter your lungs.
The TATU program understands that many students may have parents or other adults in their lives who use these products, and hearing these facts and statistics may cause them concern. While he didn’t shy away from telling the truth, he also provided information on how to seek help if someone wants to quit smoking. Students were able to take home business cards from the local health department with useful information.
The Departmental Schools of Lyon have been using this program for more than 10 years in their school systems. Students who previously participated in the program as elementary school students are now the ones presenting it. One parent even shared that their child came home from the program this year and shared the information. The student was in disbelief that all of these chemicals were in the products. Lyon County schools and 4-H hope this program will continue to educate children about the dangers of these products and discourage them from using them.