Along with more than 2,000 groups nationwide, students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Lindenhurst, N.Y., participated in National Kick Butts Day for Kids on March 24. The day called attention to the vulnerability of boys and girls as young as 11 to start smoking and promoted anti-smoking education.
With the help of the North Shore-LIJ Center for Tobacco Control, eighth-grade students served as teachers for the day, quizzing the fifth-graders on the dangers of cigarette smoking. We chose kids at this age because, typically, adults who smoke started at age 11 or 12, says Patricia Folan, RN, director of the CTC.
Using posters as props, the teachers demonstrated the ways in which tobacco companies market cigarettes to women and children, such as using pastel-colored packaging, putting company logos on school uniforms and rewarding people with cigarettes upon reaching the next level in a video game.Posters demonstrate how cigarettes are marketed toward women, children and soldiers.
The children then participated in games called kicking butts, bowling butts and tossing butts with the goal of getting rid of giant cartons and cigarettes. To show how cigarette smoking affects ones health, a table demonstration with a set of good lungs and a jar full of tar were on display.
In an emotional display toward the end of the events, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School health teacher, Burt Koza, told the story of how, although he has quit smoking his pipe, he still gets the urge. He handed it to a student to do the honors of breaking it in half and dropping it in the trash bin. Throwing the cigarettes and cartons in a big trash bin symbolized the end of the event and the students commitment to not start smoking.
Folan and her staff have participated in anti-smoking presentations at more than 20 schools this year throughout Long Island. Although this days events were geared toward the kids, the centers staff knows that many of the children have adults in their lives who smoke.The students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help dispose of all the cigarettes to symbolize the end of the event.
Weve found that the students who have parents who smoke are sometimes uncomfortable talking about it, so we ask the school nurse if we can leave literature in her office that the children can take home, Folan says. We sometimes get patients at the center because of that.
Folan also is taking her message to students at the college graduate level. She has worked with area colleges to educate nursing students on the importance of chemical dependency and addiction treatments and hopes to get the three-hour program incorporated into nursing school curricula in New York State. The main thing is to educate healthcare providers and students, she says. Although the rate of smoking nationally has gone down, it hasnt in New York State.