||Students stand proudly beneath a cigarette display they created to help educate the Hillside community about the hazards of smoking.|
In observation of the Great American Smokeout November 17, Hillside teacher Anthony Grosso's fifth grade classes completed research projects that helped them understand why cigarettes and other tobacco products are so physically harmful.
Each group of students chose two additives off a list of 599 substances that are commonly mixed with tobacco in commercially produced cigarettes. They then created a hallway display outside of Mr. Grosso's classroom, which included a giant cigarette made out of cardboard, to help educate other students about the hazards of smoking.
One student, Eliza Huber-Lueiss, said after completing the project, "It was really cool to find out what's really in cigarettes. We've known basically all our lives that they were harmful, but not exactly in what ways they were harmful."
For the first time in many generations, some of today's school children may not be personally acquainted with a smoker - proving that public awareness campaigns like the Great American Smokeout may be working. The Smokeout is an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society which urges that smokers refrain from smoking for at least 24 hours. The event has been held since 1977.
"I don't know anyone who smokes," said Zane Schwartz, one of Grosso's students. "If I saw someone smoking, I'd say, 'It's really bad for you and you should try to stop as soon as you can.' I don't want anyone who's my friend or someone I know risking their life like that. I know it's really hard to quit, but it's worth a try."
Among children who do know smokers, it is now common practice to discuss the habit with them - unlike in past generations. Said Huber-Lueiss, "My babysitter smokes and my dad used to smoke. I've actually been trying to tell my babysitter in a polite way not to smoke."
Among the additives Grosso's fifth-graders researched were ammonia, soap, benzyl alcohol, brake fluid, ammonium bicarbonate (used in fire extinguishers), ethanol, hydrogen cyanide, urine, and acetone (nail polish remover).
Huber-Lueiss said that prior to the research project, she had no idea that there was anything in cigarettes but tobacco.
"It was really astounding," she said, "because it was so gross."
Asked if he might consider smoking when he becomes an adult, Schwartz's answer was, "Not a chance."