By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Brittani Mellard, Amber Garner and Abigail Noeldechen made an anti-smoking presentation to a class at Blue Heron Middle School on Thursday as part of a senior project, but found that many of the students weren't really listening, or thought they knew everything about the topic already.
“The kids in eighth grade are at the top of the school and have an attitude,” Brittani said afterward.
“I know, because it wasn't so long ago that I was in eighth grade.”
Eventually, though, the high school students got the attention of the class.
The high school seniors illustrated some of the ingredients in tobacco smoke — such as rat poison, candle wax and formaldehyde — by distributing them around the room and then collecting them in a small tub.
“There are about 600 ingredients in tobacco that, when burned, create over 4,000 chemicals,” Garner said.
“Tobacco is the only product that if used as intended can kill you.”
Another exercise required students to run in place until they were winded, and then hold their noses and breathe through a narrow straw.
This was a demonstration of what it was like to have a diseased lung.
The three girls — along with fellow high school student Ashely Goodrich, who was not present on Thursday — made similar presentations to three fourth grade classes earlier this week.
They hope to talk with Swan School students in the next few weeks.
They will write a report that will be presented to their own classes in May.
The presentation was part of Teens Against Tobacco Use — or TATU — a program sponsored by the American Lung Association and administered by the Jefferson County Department of Public Health.
The students were given teaching materials and coaching by health educator Karen Obermeyer, then worked out the details of the presentation on their own.
“The fourth grade kids were better listeners and were more involved,” Mellard said.
“They were more excited about the material.”
Mellard said that it is hard for young people to resist peer pressure.
“It's hard to go somewhere where all of your friends are smoking and they want you to join in,” she said.
“People think it's cool, but if you don't stop, you can become addicted.”
Teacher Ted Davis asked the eighth grade students to raise their hands if they had ever tried a cigarette.
Davis raised his own hand. Only two of the 33 students raised theirs.
It's hard for people to quit, so the most important message is to not start, the TATU team said.
“We want to teach kids about the dangers of smoking,” Mellard said.
“And we want to teach them how to say ‘no.'”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.