Woodrow Cummins elementary students were able to visit with a guest from the Arkansas Department of Health on Wednesday about tobacco prevention as part of the school’s Red Ribbon Week celebration.
Christianna Braddix, a certified public health educator, spoke with students about the harmfulness of tobacco consumption.
Through a demonstration using a set of healthy, pink lungs and a set of unhealthy, black lungs, Braddix was also able to show the group how smoking causes a person to have more difficulty in breathing and other potential issues.
Often, she said, there’s a lot that goes on inside our bodies that we don’t see and the demonstration showed a clear picture of the tobacco effects.
"It’s just a very dramatic picture but it’s real enough to understand," Braddix said. "To see it in real life is pretty impactful."
She said she travels throughout the state and loves being able to share this concern with schools and their children.
"It’s a very important topic for us [because] it starts so young," Braddix said. "Now even more with e-cigarettes that are out and vaping. Tobacco companies are targeting kids and we want to be able to get this information out so that they can, early on, say, ‘no that’s not something I want to do.’"
Ashley Silliman, the counselor at Woodrow Cummins, said the whole month of October is about responsibility and safety and this Red Ribbon Week, the students have learned about fire safety, school safety and now tobacco safety.
In her sixth year at the school, Silliman said kids are getting more quizative about stuff and are being exposed to issues sooner and sooner.
"These kids are much more worldly than I was," she said.
Silliman said that’s why it’s important to instill good choices in children younger, like being healthy and paying attention to what is put in the body.
"Real basic stuff and I hope that it’s like a life style choice," she said. "If you are a healthy person and you value your body, exercise, nutrients, what you put in your body — we talk about vitamins — then I think you’re less likely to introduce foreign chemicals."
One issue that she’s noticing is the use of the e-cigarette and vaping and the fact that they smell like candy, which is attractive to kids.
"It’s a problem because people are using it as a crutch to quit cigarettes but it’s also used as a gimmick to entice younger kids," Silliman said.
She said the point of Red Ribbon Week and having all these different experts come in is to reiterate the need to make good choices, but also to lend credibility to what school officials are always saying, which sometimes is "like a broken record," and to start those important conversations about health.
"I know that it brings up important conversations and I know that because parents will talk to me about it and sometimes in a negative way and sometimes in a positive way," Silliman said. "That’s why I always make sure I reiterate the importance of how these kids are presented with the information."
While she doesn’t want to cause any family strife, she said it’s crucial for these kids to be presented with the material.
"It opens up dialogue," Silliman said. "Sometimes it probably is helpful and sometimes maybe it’s conflictive. I don’t know, but it’s important."