Teens work to tackle tobacco
Grade 7 and 8 students participate in workshop to discourage smoking
DURHAM -- Squeamish teens squeezed blackened pig lungs during a hands-on anti-smoking presentation they'll soon be sharing with students across the region.
During a recent 'Teens Tackling Tobacco' workshop, four Grade 7 and 8 students from each of 36 Durham Region schools learned about the environmental and health effects of smoking, as well as the advertising approaches tobacco companies use to catch youngsters' attention. With the information, students will craft their own school presentations to encourage their classmates to go smoke-free.
"I'm going to tell them not to smoke because when you see lungs like that (pig's lungs), it's disgusting and it can kill you," said Roxanne Wood, a student at Dr. S.J. Phillips Public School in Oshawa.
With gloved hands, students were able to feel and see the difference between healthy pig lungs and lungs injected with carbon to resemble a smoker's.
"It was swishy and disgusting; some parts were hard because of the tumour and bubbling," said Roxanne. "The healthy one, you could feel the air going through it, but the black one, it could barely open."
She added smoking can also damage your loved ones' lungs.
"In Canada alone, 55 billion cigarettes are smoked every year," said Susan Cockburn-Gillespie, a public health nurse, during a presentation on environmental impacts.
"How would you like to be swimming in that?" she asked, holding up a jar with a cigarette butt floating in brown water.
Mrs. Cockburn-Gillespie said it takes five years for a butt to biodegrade and because they are used to filter cigarette smoke, they're filled with toxins.
"A baby can die from eating four butts," she said.
Inside cigarettes are chemicals and additives, including cocoa, which acts as a bronchodilator to open lungs and allow nicotine to be absorbed faster into the body, said the health nurse.
Following the presentation, Sarah Van Kessel, a student at E.A. Fairman Public School in Whitby, said she learned a lot about the chemicals in cigarettes.
"I didn't even know there was toilet bowl cleaner (chemical) in those things," said Sarah. When she takes the tackling tobacco message back to her school, she'll likely focus on the chemical content, she said.
The way cigarettes are made also impacts the environment, said Kelly Ward, a public health nurse. She said leaves are picked then cooked and dried using burning wood. It takes one tree to produce 300 cigarettes before packaging is even considered, she added.
For Clayton Connell, a student at Alexander Graham Bell Public School in Ajax, the advertising techniques used by tobacco companies were most interesting.
In a presentation room featuring a bulletin board with a big target in the middle, students heard and watched a video on some of the methods tobacco companies use to get youths to spark up, such as product placement in films, display cases in convenience stores and colours and slogans used at sponsored events.
"You don't even know what's happening, it just happens," said Clayton.
For his school, he'll bring back the message for students to watch out and be careful not to get caught by advertisements.
Teens Tackling Tobacco is a partnership between the Durham Region health department, the Durham District School Board, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and Durham Lives.