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Stand up to Smoking

As teenagers, it's quite customary to find ourselves battling the vexing forces of peer pressure. Whether it be acting a certain way or portraying a specific image, it seems that society has an unsettling habit of dictating what it deems "cool." One unfortunate result of this is that many teenagers see smoking as a practice vital to advancing their social status. Movies, TV shows, magazines, and the media too often seem to portray cigarettes in a sophisticated fashion, but teens need to know the reality.

That’s why I’ve joined my school's Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco (PHAST) coalition. Through PHAST, I am able to educate teens at my school about the dangerous ramifications of smoking. Too often, teens believe that there is no harm in simply trying a cigarette and that it will not set them up for addiction. However, the Surgeon General reported last year that 1.5 million individuals under the age of 18 take up smoking each year. Through PHAST, I have the resources to spread this type of information and inspire teens to make healthier lifestyle choices.

My favorite activity I did this year with PHAST was helping organize a school event called “Kick Butts Day,” in which the PHAST team and I set up a booth during lunchtime for other students to stop by and put their knowledge about smoking’s harmfulness to the test. With trivia cards and a handcrafted game wheel, we conducted interactive quizzing games using smoking statistics put out by the American Lung Association. Some of the facts we shared included that 69 of the known 4,800 chemicals in cigarette smoke are cancer-causing agents and that 90% of lung cancer deaths are primarily due to smoking.

In addition, we added a special visual display to our booth to truly hammer home the "kick butts" message. Using a variety of household products, we filled jars to proportionally represent the amount of phlegm and tar that accumulate annually in a smoker’s body. This served as a particular eye opener, evoking many a "Whoa" from students as it clearly tackled the misconception that even occasional smoking is a safe alternative. Smoking is truly a dangerously addictive habit that wreaks havoc on almost every body organ.

Suffice to say, I plan on being a devoted member of PHAST for the rest of my high school years and extending the knowledge and vision I have gained throughout my life. I have realized that smoking prevention is a cause I truly believe in, and as with any efforts to make a difference, spreading awareness is key. My work with PHAST demonstrates that bringing about this awareness starts on a local level, in our schools and communities, where we can directly inspire our peers to make healthier lifestyle choices. Any action, no matter how small, has the potential to create positive change.



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