Liberty School Students Get The Facts on Tobacco
Surprisingly, when it comes to prevention of tobacco use, the biggest reaction from Mrs. Gravett’s 3rd grade class at Liberty School wasn’t what smoking can do to your health, but what it can do to your wallet.
For over 15 years, Carla and her team make the rounds to 3rd grade students in Ottumwa to educate them about tobacco prevention and a healthy lifestyle, and recently visited Liberty School. She begins by having the class join her in singing the “Heart Power” song where they cheer for healthy hearts and “stomping out” things that are bad for the heart – like smoking.
As a visual aide on what happens when people use tobacco products, Carla introduces “Mr. Yuckmouth” to students, showing them a large plastic mouth with teeth and gums stained by tobacco. “Bad breath, stained teeth, mouth and lung cancers are just a few things you can look forward to with tobacco use,” says Carla. “Your hair and clothes smell as well.” The students view a slice of a healthy lung and compare it to a slice of a smoker’s lung. A bottle of “slime” represents phlegm from a smoker’s lungs.
But perhaps the biggest “Wow!” moment comes when Carla asks the students “How much does a pack of cigarettes cost?” The kids are amazed when they do the math:
$6 per pack at 1 pack of cigarettes per day = $42 per week x 52 weeks in a year = $2,184
“Think of the other things you could buy with that money instead, like an IPod, or a trip to Disney World,” says Carla. “Most people will begin smoking when they are teenagers. If you put the money you would have spent on smoking in a savings account instead, you could buy a car when you graduate!”
For those students with loved ones who use tobacco, Carla offers some sage advice. “Don’t go home and lecture your family about it. After all, it’s an addiction; people need understanding and encouragement to stop.” What’s the best way to break an addiction? “That’s easy”, says Carla. “Don’t start to begin with!”
Carla Thompson, RN, BSN is a nurse with the Healthy Choices Wellness Program at Ottumwa Regional Health Center. This program offers a line of services to companies to help their employees improve their health through screenings and provides education and coaching on healthy choices and lifestyles, but also provides educational programs such as Heart Power to the community at no cost.