Yongsan waging 'Tar Wars' in classroom
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — It might have been a comment by a buzz-cut student wearing glasses that made smoking seem so unattractive in Janette Beavers’ fifth-grade class Thursday morning: He heard that people pee on tobacco.
It might have been youthful hyperbole, and the comment did draw a soft rebuke from Beavers. But during an anti-tobacco presentation nicknamed “Tar Wars,” her two dozen students demonstrated they knew several facts about the dangers of tobacco.
The program was offered during the Great American Smokeout, a day the American Cancer Society sponsors to encourage kicking the nicotine habit.
Capt. John Schwartz, a general practice physician at the 121st Hospital, and his wife, Kate, held a lively one-hour session that imparted a stern message: Using tobacco could have serious health and financial consequences.
In seven other classrooms at Yongsan Garrison’s elementary school, doctors and volunteers held similar sessions.
Their goal, Schwartz said: Hit students when they are young — most in Beavers’ class are 10 or 11 — before they are introduced to tobacco.
Schwartz, 28, said he doesn’t remember being taught the dangers of tobacco when he was a fifth-grader, but in the past 15 to 17 years, tobacco education has “really come a long way.”
“It is good that it is a lot more prevalent,” he said.
Want to learn how it feels to be a smoker? Pinch your nose with two fingers while huffing a breath through a flexible, clear straw, then jump up and down for as long as you can.
The fifth graders found it doesn’t take long to want a big gulp of fresh air.
Schwartz’ presentation also invited students to analyze tobacco advertising themes, which slyly suggest a cool attitude and friends come with smoking. Passing out one-page photocopied advertisements, they asked students to decipher messages such as “Until I find a real man, I’ll take a real smoke.”
The students were quick on the uptake: The ad, they said, suggested cigarettes offer solace for a woman until she finds a boyfriend. Other ads suggested tobacco use promoted cool images, good looks, chances for dating, even a healthy appearance.
Schwartz also doled out some truth. Tobacco companies pay to have their products used in movies and the celebrities who smoke in advertisements may not even smoke, just be paid to advertise a dangerous product.
Alex Rucker also offered his theory when Kate Schwartz asked what happens to your pocket if you smoke: it gets filled up with cigarettes. Students learned smoking a pack a day costs more than $1,400 per year.
How could the money better be spent, the students were asked. The answers varied: A Game Boy, a Diablo expansion set, bills, child support, a savings account or a trip. Among parents of the 24 students, about nine smoke, the students said — but every class member scrunched his or her nose and face at the thought of using tobacco.
“We learned how long it takes for your lungs to turn black,” said Christy Manoogian, 11.
Answer: About two years.