Kick Butts Week sends message against tobacco, marijuana use
Anti-smoking experts note that delaying the age when kids first experiment or begin using tobacco can help reduce the risk that they will become regular or daily tobacco users.
Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids cite the peak year for first trying to smoke appears to be in the 6th and 7th grades, or between the ages of 11 and 13, with some studies showing even earlier starts.
Throughout the week of March 17-21, Tecumseh Middle School (TMS) students held an annual Kick Butts Week with both an anti-tobacco and anti-marijuana theme. Fifth graders held an anti-tobacco presentation created by two of their classmates.
“These class leaders have been working on their presentations for over a month and were very excited to talk to their classmates about what they found out,” said Cindy Hook, Middle School Site Coordinator for Communities in Schools of the Tecumseh Area who helped facilitate the event.
Students participated in a variety of hands-on activities, from an exercise that simulated smoking, a Jeopardy game, and seeing exactly what is in a cigarette. They also created murals pledging not to use tobacco/marijuana, asking someone to stop using the substances, and writing something in memory of a family member or friend who died as a result of using them.
Eighth graders spent one day listening to professionals give a presentation and watching videos. Michigan State Police Tressa Duffin touched on the subject of marijuana, as did members of the Tecumseh High School SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) chapter.
On Thursday, March 20, SADD President Zoe Melnyk and group members Kayla Kormos, McKenzie Rowe and Ryan Bogrow spoke on the subject of marijuana to seventh graders in the TMS cafeteria, receiving some good interaction from the younger teens. SADD members explained how smoking marijuana can affect decision-making skills, loss of memory — even lowering IQ — and that starting with marijuana can lead to other drugs.
“Because of medical marijuana, many think it’s okay to smoke it now,” said Melnyk as she described some of the myths surrounding the substance’s use. “But it’s the same thing you would get from a dealer.” She added that a lot of people think that it’s not that big a deal and they won’t get caught.
“Actually over 800,000 people get arrested for possession every year,” Melnyk said. “If you want to go to college and you have an MIP (Minor in Possession) on your record, that will have a negative impact, limiting your choices for the future.”
The teens also pointed out that medical marijuana does not help cure an illness — and it’s still illegal in Michigan without a medical marijuana card, and also by federal law.
“Some people think it’s better than tobacco, but it can contain 50 to 70 percent more cancer causing substances than tobacco smoke with more of a chance of getting cancer,” said Melnyk.
One of the SADD members told students if they were with a friend who wanted them to smoke marijuana, they should use “the plain old mom and dad excuse,” stating, “My mom and dad would kill me,” and try to redirect the activity. “It still works,” she said. The group also suggested not being judgmental of someone they see smoking, but to again try to redirect the activity to something like going to the movies.
Following the presentation, Melnyk said she wanted to speak to the middle school students because she thinks it’s important to teach everyone about the dangers of marijuana as early as possible.
“Our SADD program at the high school does an amazing job showing the dangers of drugs but sometimes by the time a student reaches high school, it’s too late,” she said. “I think the presentation went well and it was a great way to introduce SADD to the middle school and will hopefully get the middle school students interested in a junior SADD.”
There are plans next year to start a chapter that eighth graders would lead at the middle school.
“Many middle schoolers look up to high school students,” said Melnyk. “Especially seniors. So I was honored to have the opportunity to inspire them to avoid the use of any illegal substances.”