Effective Alternatives (to) Smoking (for) You

By Sherry L. McPherson, LCSW

This article is written on behalf of my Patchogue-Medford High School students. It involves a grant funded program that was created four years ago. The purpose is to empower students to make wise choices develop a plan to live healthy lifestyles. Smoking was chosen because it has been shown to aggravate and or cause illnesses such as emphysema, heart disease and cancer. The goal is to have candidates reduce or eliminate smoking. The name is E.A.S.Y.- Effective Alternatives (to) Smoking (for) You-Evidence Based. The evidence is taken from the evidence based Tobacco Awareness Program (TAP).

Each week that followed included strategies to encourage my students to stop smoking. First, pupils set basic rules, times for the sessions and identified their responsibilities (making up school work, making up seat time). Then, they described their first experiences with smoking; their age and how they felt at that time (ex. pressured, sad). These members were asked to estimate the amount of cigarettes they smoke currently. Each pupil’s goal was identified as a desire to stop smoking. At the each session, members write in their journals about the group experience. Other sessions followed the lessons from the TAP booklet to lead students to healthy coping and stress relieving skills. Educators from Eastern Suffolk BOCES had the students do activities which simulated the effects of smoking on one’s body. One involved using the computer to age our student as if she continues to smoke and the other side aged her naturally. The difference in the pictures was drastic! This pupil was mortified seeing the results. Another involved having pupils breathe from a cocktail straw. The purpose was to show the effects of having emphysema. It was difficult to breathe for a few seconds, let alone having to use that method for your life. Members expressed their gratitude for having such helpful information available for their benefit.

I am hopeful that this information will lead my students to healthier lifestyles. Whether they quit at this time or in the future- they are equipped with the knowledge of how to avoid destructive decisions and to lead productive, well-rounded lives.

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