|Med students bring lessons on dangers of tobacco use to area elementary schools|
More than 75 medical students at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences will present interactive talks about the dangers of tobacco use to fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Grand Forks area beginning this month.
The hour-long "Tar Wars" presentations include learning activities designed to increase students' knowledge about the adverse side-effects of tobacco use.
Grade-school students "will learn to identify reasons why people might start using tobacco products, and to think critically about tobacco advertising," said Rachel Sullivan, medical student and member of UND's Doctors Ought to Care (DOC). "They will learn various ways to say 'no' to peers when pressured into using tobacco."
The goal of "Tar Wars" is to educate students about being and staying tobacco-free and, more importantly, Sullivan said, "to provide students with the tools needed to make positive decisions about their future health and well-being."
Presentations include various media advertisements and movies that portray tobacco use as "cool" or the "the norm," she added. Interactive quizzes teach students about the main ingredients found in tobacco and their use in everyday life, such as cyanide, a component of battery acid.
Physical activity is also part of the learning experience, she said. Students participate in one-minute jumping-jacks and then breathe through a straw to demonstrate how it feels to breathe through obstructed and damaged airways, caused by tobacco use.
"Kids get a big kick out of this activity," Sullivan said. "Most agree that not being able to breathe is scary. They wonder how they'd be able to play sports and participate in other favorite activities."
"Doctors Ought to Care-Tar Wars," which is owned and operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians, is implemented in classrooms throughout the U.S. and abroad. The program reaches about 500,000 students annually. Since its inception in 1988, Tar Wars has touched the lives of more than 7 million children worldwide.
The UND medical students also sponsor a Tar Wars poster contest, aimed at children, that emphasizes the positive effects of not smoking. A local winner will receive a trip to Washington, D.C., in July to participate with other poster contest winners in national Tar Wars programming, meet their congressional leaders, and visit historical sites.
"As future physicians, we understand that we can positively influence our communities," Sullivan said. "Tar Wars gives us the opportunity to reach out and interact with people who need tobacco education the most: kids."
-- Shelley Pohlman, Administrative Secretary, Public Affairs, email@example.com, 701-777-4305