Locust Valley High School students became the teachers when they visited Locust Valley Intermediate School to educate the fifth graders on the dangers of smoking.

As part of the Teens as Teachers program, members of the high school SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) club were trained by the Long Island Tobacco Coalition. Eight teen teachers visited four elementary classes to lead a tobacco prevention presentation.

An interactive lesson kept the classes engaged. Students were asked to read the names of the ingredients in cigarettes, which had been written on sheets of a paper towel roll. Each time an ingredient was read, that sheet of paper towel was ripped off by the fifth grader and placed in a large white cylinder representing a giant cigarette.

Once the cylinder was filled with crumpled up words like ammonia, arsenic, butane, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and so many more, the teen teachers held it up and asked, “Would you want to smoke all of these things?” The students unanimously answered “No!”

With the guidance of the teen teachers, the elementary students performed skits to show what they had learned during the lesson. Mock commercials against smoking and simulated peer pressure scenarios exhibited that the young learners understood the dangers of smoking, as well as many different ways to say no if offered cigarettes. Some of the strategies included saying “I don’t want to die,” “I have a sore throat,” and “I don’t want my clothes to smell bad.”

Marianne Masopust, high school social worker and SADD club advisor, said the lesson was beneficial for all the students involved. “The high school students gain self-esteem from being role models and knowing they are making a difference in a child’s life, while the younger students are learning valuable lessons and tools.”

Locust Valley Intermediate School psychologist Kathleen Goeren observed that hearing the message from their teen mentors makes a bigger impact than receiving the message from adults. “This age group looks up to teenagers so much, making them the perfect vehicle for delivering the anti-smoking message.”