Games help the students learn the dangers of tobacco use
By MEGAN COOPER
Mt. Pleasant News
Games became an instructional tool this week to teach students the dangers of tobacco use.
This past Wednesday, the Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) group held an event at the Mt. Pleasant Middle School library, which highlighted the dangers of tobacco use and used games to get the message across.
“We meet twice a month and I help to educate these students and in turn, they can educate their peers,” said Chris Kempker who is the Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for Iowa State University extension office. She is also affiliated with the Iowa Department of Public Health (tobacco department).
The TATU group at the middle school has about 20 students, which is a larger number than last year, Kempker said.
“We are also a part of the American Lung Association and in the past we have visited elementary schools and health classes. It’s important to teach our youth as they are the next targeted group of smokers,” added Kempker.
Middle school student Meagan Sutherland discussed what the event entailed and what the games would teach students who participated in them.
“We have these educational games in order to raise awareness of what drugs can do to you,” Sutherland said. “The game that I’m running allows students to match chemicals in cigarettes.”
Another game, according to middle school student Bailey Batten, showed how your breathing would be affected if you were a smoker.
“The game that I am helping to run shows what lung disease can do to you. You take a straw and plug your nose and then you breathe normally,” said Batten. “It’s hard to do just that, but then you have to jump up and down and it makes it harder. It shows what it feels like to be a smoker and what it can do to your body. It’s not cool and it can kill you quickly.”
Sutherland said other games gave facts about tobacco use and allowed students to learn information that would help them understand the affects of using tobacco.
“The mouth shows what happens to your lungs and teeth when using tobacco,” said Sutherland. “Over there we have pictures of advertisements and students have to try and decide what the advertisement is selling.”
Another station for students to stop at discussed what happened to semi-pro baseball player, Rick Bender, when he was in his 20s.
“Rick Bender lost one-third of his tongue, the flesh connecting to his neck and some of his jaw (due to cancer),” said middle school student Samantha Crawford. “He did this (chewing tobacco) because of peer pressure and this shows what chewing tobacco can do to you.”
Finally, there was a station that had pig lungs, one healthy lung, and one unhealthy lung. The students were able to see exactly what smoking could do their lungs.
“It’s so important to teach youth about this, I can’t stress that enough,” said Kempker. “We’ve been raising awareness and it’s working. We have a goal set for 2024 that we can get down to 10 percent of the population smoking. Right now it’s at 18 percent.
“Another good reason for educating our youth is that 85 percent of adult smokers start before the age of 19, so it’s just another reason to get the word out,” concluded Kempker.