Kids get it, as early prevention programs discourage smoking - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Kids get it, as early prevention programs discourage smoking

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“Does anybody know what this is,"  asks Jackie Preston of Pathways Behavioral Services in Waterloo.  https://www.pathwaysb.org/

 "It's a tumor," says  6th grade student at Lincoln Elementary School In Cedar Falls.. "This is cancer, Preston points out," as the Lincoln students examine the lungs of a pig, which have been exposed to the chemicals found in cigarettes.

It's part of a Pathways tobacco prevention program for area 6th graders. 

While the Lincoln students are still in elementary school, the latest report on Tobacco and Youth from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says teenage smoking is at an all-time low.

In 2000, some 30-percent of American teenagers said they smoke. 

Today, that percentage has dropped to just 8-per cent.

There are new concerns on the horizon. Concerns about Vaping, E-Cigs and a new craze known as Juuling. KWWL will examine Juuling in a special report Thursday night, April 26, during the KWWL News at 10. 

In Cedar Falls, the Lincoln class is part of Pathways ongoing Comprehensive Substance Abuse Prevention program, funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

At Lincoln, 6th grade teacher, Jodie Bonwell, has her students understanding the negative health consequences of smoking.

Says Paige Steffen, “I'm really learning that tobacco can hurt your lungs and your health.”

John Nyman adds,  “It can kill you. It can cause many different diseases...and effects every single part of your body.”

Shalisa Thurmond says,  "I didn't know it affects your health that much.”

And, Houston Acuff remarked,  “It affects every single part of your body, and that probably surprised me the most.”

Of the unique class, Bonwell says, “This is a time and period of their lives when they're very influential. Peer pressure is going to be starting. So, for them to have the background knowledge and the understanding of what it can do to their bodies is perfect timing, in 6th grade.”

Jackie Preston of Pathways Behavioral Services teaches the class, and gives these 6th graders the straight talk on tobacco, saying, "They can take everything..and apply all of it together become less likely yo be come addicted to any substance."

Preston explains some of the demonstrations the students see. "They get to look at something called Mr. Gross Mouth...That shows some of the dangers related to chewing tobacco. They get to see a tar jar, which represents the amount of tar that would be in a smokers lungs after a year of smoking a pack a day..They get to do an activity where they breath through a straw, and it shows them what COPD might feel like....They can tell that it's harder to breath. They can tell their heart is beating faster. They can tell it's harder to pick up their legs."

Shalisa Thurmond  says, “My biological Mom smokes. So, if I smoke, it's more than likely for me to smoke and become addicted."

As part of this program, the Lincoln students get a closeup look at some healthy pig lungs, and then react to seeing diseased pig lungs, which have exposed to the chemicals in cigarettes.

"They get to see pig lungs, both a healthy lung and a diseased lung...so they can see what the build up of all the chemicals, more than 7-thousand chemicals in tobacco smoke. They can see what that can do."

John Nyman:  “I was really surprised what happened to the diseased lungs, compared to the healthy ones. There was just such a large difference. The diseased ones just looked really unhealthy.”

Houston Acuff added to that, saying, “It just went to black with tumors. It just went from so good to so bad very quickly.”

Jodie Bonwell believes in the class: "It's an extremely awesome program. She introduces them to some of the pathways drugs and some of the things that are harmful to their bodies.”

Something which really catches the students' attention is the monetary cost of smoking.

As Paige Steffen points out, Paige Steffen “I don't want to spend my money, and I don't want to use it for something bad. It's one thousand five hundred dollars about a year just to buy a pack of cigarettes a day, and a lot of times, you're probably going to buy more.”

Says Jackie Preston, “We want to develop critical thinkers. So, whether it's an ad, or whether it's a peer, or whether it's anyone trying to convince them that substance use is fine, safe, everybody does it, they know better." 

Smoking prevention is just area of the pathways program. Students also also learn about marijuana, alcohol and advertising of products.

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