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Sue Guinn Legg

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Young eyes opened to truth about tobacco

April 25th, 2014 9:00 pm by Sue Guinn Legg

Young eyes opened to truth about tobacco

Sixth-graders at Indian Trail Intermediate School got a hands-on lesson in the truth about tobacco use Friday from a team of medical students who visited their health classes with sets of diseased and healthy human lungs to illustrate the dangers.

“Soft” and “squishy” versus “hard as a rock” with “things moving around in them” were the words the students used to describe the contrast between the large, pinkish-white healthy specimens and shriveled, gray organs they probed with latex-covered fingers.

“It’s bad to smoke. The nicotine in an electronic cigarette can kill a baby. And if you smoke, cancer can kill you,” were the points that stuck in the mind of 12-year-old Tony Smith when it was over.

“You shouldn’t do it,” Malachi Copas, almost 13, said somberly on his way out of class.

Score one for the medical students for their effective delivery of the facts on the why people smoke and why they should not, peer pressure, misleading advertising messages, costs and devastating health effects.

Twelve-year-old Paige Carlsen said she was really surprised by the chemicals in cigarette smoke reviewed by medical students Michael Neblett II and Rebekah Rollston in her teacher David Nutter’s second-period health class. Acetone, a main ingredient in nail polish remover; arsenic, a common rat poison; benzene, the stuff rubber cement is made of; cadmium, a reaction-causing metal used in batteries; carbon monoxide, the deadly vapor in car exhaust; and about 40 others dangerous components are found in cigarettes.

More shocking news from the medical students included statistics that show about 2 percent of all sixth-graders smoke, compared to 18 percent of 10th-graders and 21 percent of adults.

The good news, the medical students said, is that if a young person makes it to age 18 without smoking, the odds are good they never will. Also, 98 percent of sixth-graders, 82 percent of 10th-graders and 79 percent of adults do not smoke, they said, for many good reasons:

• Tobacco use causes dozens of cancers, including cancer of the lungs, mouth, esophagus, stomach, kidneys, bladder and pancreas.

• Tobacco use increases the risk of cancer by 23 percent for men and 13 percent for women.

• The risk of heart attacks and stroke goes up two to four times for people who smoke.

• And if all that weren’t enough, cigarette smoking is expensive, costing a pack-a-day smoker a whopping $1,800 a year, or close to $150,000 over 50 years, if they live that long.

Carlsen said she was also struck by how cigarette ads “really trick you.”

“Low tar is not heathy,” she said.

While ads may feature young, beautiful women smoking, laughing and having fun with friends and strong men chewing tobacco in rugged settings, Rollston and Neblett ask the sixth graders to remember cigarette smoke stinks and its odor clings to a smokers’ hair, skin and clothing.

Tobacco use causes bad breath, discolors teeth, increases wrinkles and speeds up aging, they said. And smoking not only makes it difficult to breathe, it impairs the absorption in oxygen in the blood and tissues, clogs arteries and can lead to the loss of limbs, they said.

Relaying those messages is part of being a doctor, Rollston said.

“We really enjoy talking to students. It’s meaningful, and we hope it will have a lasting effect.”

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