Recently, 186 fifth-graders from RSU 20 spent the better part of a day learning about the effects of smoking on smokers and those around them. They did this through a variety of mini workshops.

In one workshop, students heard from a 17-year-old smoker who lamented that he ever started smoking and became addicted. In another, students were garbed in lead vests and given weights to carry before participating in a relay race to feel how a smoker’s lungs and breathing problems make it more difficult to run. In still another, students drummed to a song with such words as “My mind is mine. I am in control.”

Besides being told how addictive smoking can be and how an addiction can control your life, in another room, students learned some of the marketing techniques that tobacco companies employ. The financial cost of smoking and how that affects one’s budget was another topic. The effects of second- and third-hand smoke (smoke that smokers bring into a room on their clothing even if they smoke outside) were also discussed, as was smokeless tobacco.

Students also made a health promotion paper quilt with various things they had learned during the day. From the students’ comments, it was clear they had learned a lot, but the most important message was not to start.

Along with numerous illustrations and comments about black lungs, student comments included:

· “Stop smoking and make the world healthy.”

· “Good people — bad decision. Do not smoke.”

· “If you smoke, you’re wasting your money.”

· “You shouldn’t show kids under 18 on your commercials.”

· “Smoking kills the people you love.”

· “Second-hand smoke can kill our pets.”

· “Smoking is super GROSS.”

· “You are killing my grandmother.”

· “Second- and third-hand smoke are disgusting.”

· “Smoking is really, really, really, really bad for U! Really.”

The workshops were put on by Healthy Waldo County in collaboration with RSU 20 and the Waldo County YMCA. Based on the overwhelmingly positive student/teacher evaluations, plans are under way to make this an annual event.