Teens Educating Teens Against Smoking

Teens Educating Teens Against Smoking

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

I recently had the privilege to view a free, public service video "Smoking Teens Speak Out" intended to discourage children from smoking. Unlike other programs that aim at quitting smoking, the goal of this video is to prevent a child from smoking that FIRST cigarette of his or her life.

Very ambitious, but also very smart thinking behind setting such a goal! Remember the first puff of a cigarette or a sip of alcoholic drink you tried? It was awful, wasn't it? But, we went on to take another puff or another sip because it was "cool" or it was a part of the social rite, peer encouragement or pressure. Some, fortunately, stop after a little "experimentation," but others keep doing it over and over again until they begin to like it or come to physically or psychologically depend on it.

Prevention Video Corporation, the makers of this video, hopes that children would not experiment with cigarettes at all. Because, a number of children, however small number that may be, are so addiction prone that they can't stop after the first cigarette. They are hooked on nicotine just after one cigarette!

Ron Peterson was one such addiction prone child who got hooked on nicotine the first day he smoked. He first tried to quit at age 15 and subsequently throughout his adult life. He finally succeeded at age fifty-one, a good thirty-six years after his first attempt to quit and nine years after being diagnosed with serious lung disease called emphysema.

Emphysema is most often caused by smoking and severely impairs a person's ability to breathe. During his smoking career, his breathing capacity went down to 18% of the normal capacity for his age.

Since the diagnosis of emphysema, Peterson knew cigarettes were literally killing his lungs and him. He was desperate to stop for the next nine years but could not. He would cough uncontrollably with just one hit of the mildest cigarette, leading to a severe struggle for breath each time but could not quit! In Peterson's words, "I tried every method known to man and made up a few of my own." Six years ago, through his own methods and the help of doctors and friends, he could give up smoking for good.

You can see why he is so strongly committed to the cause of prevention of smoking. Peterson targets the 8 to 12-year olds because those are the years when a majority of children try their first cigarette. Thirteen to 17-year olds in the video share their experience and explain why smoking is not so cool after all.

The kids in the video, who from the outside seem the picture of perfect health, already frequently experience breathlessness. One gets breathless while taking the laundry basket up just two flights of steps. Another had to get out of a sports team because of breathlessness. Yet another can't run a mile without coughing and has to stop to catch his breath. Some must perform high-speed activities at a slower rate because of breathlessness.

Some have noticed that they produce more sputum than their nonsmoking peers. One observed that smoking played a part in the anxiety attacks she was lately experiencing. One would miss a meal so he could spend the money on cigarettes.

These people are already addicted to nicotine in the true sense of the word before they even become adults!

I am pleased to note that vast majority of children don't think smoking a cigarette is cool any more. One male teen reports that when he asked a co-ed go to out on a date, she refused. When he asked her the reason, she said, "You're a smoker" and she walked away. He said it made him feel like being a smoker means being "not fully human."

Some smokers prefer to stay in the company of smoking peers only, partly because they are unsure of the reception they would receive from nonsmoking peers. The strong smell of tobacco on the body or in the vehicle of a smoking peer turns off some nonsmokers. Thus, your choice of friends in some cases can become limited.

Three thousand teenagers start smoking each day. The most effective prevention is to get at lease some of them to not start at all.

A study published in the journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1999 demonstrated that the younger a person started smoking, the more the chances of damage of his or her DNA that could later result in lung cancer. Those who start smoking during adult years seem to have a better capacity to repair the DNA damage.

I hope teachers, counselors, youth church leaders, scout leaders and whoever works with elementary grade children would do prevention work. Anyone can download the video free of cost from: www.geocities.com/ronaldpeterson.geo or request a copy by mail. The video is not copyrighted. In fact, Peterson encourages us all to make copies, as we need to take his work a step further!

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2003, Mind Publications 
Posted September 2003


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