Ever since Jill Gossett has been at Methodist Fremont Health, the hospital third-grade tour has always included a segment on the dangers of smoking.
But last year, the hospital added something new to the presentation: e-cigarettes.
“We always talk about what tobacco is, what’s in a cigarette, but we started to include pictures of e-cigarettes,” said Gossett, coordinator of community health and wellness. “Really, the message is that anything that looks like a cigarette or acts like a cigarette should be considered not a healthy option.”
Methodist Fremont Health’s third-grade weekly tour is provided for approximately 20 elementary schools in Fremont, including schools in the Fremont Public School system, Trinity Lutheran Elementary School and Archbishop Bergan Elementary School.
The tour’s 10-minute presentation on smoking previously showed students ways to stay tobacco-free, but has changed to teach them to say “No to nicotine,” Gossett said.
“I think they know that there are risks, and at the third grade, we’re really trying to plant the seed,” she said. “We don’t want them to get to middle school or high school and start smoking or using tobacco products, so we start early and hopefully talk to them often about it so it won’t be something that they’re tempted to do.”
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The students are shown pictures, including a 3D model comparison of a healthy lung and a damaged lung. At the end of the presentation, students are given T-shirts that previously said “I will be tobacco free,” but will now say “Be smart – Don’t start.”
The topic of vaping and e-cigarettes has been in conversation throughout the state since the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced it received a report of the first death related to vaping last week.
With these conversations in the public, Gossett said it’s important to directly inform younger people as to vaping’s health concerns.
“It’s probably much like it was back when people started smoking years ago,” she said. “They didn’t know how bad it was going to be or what risks they were taking. We’re trying to teach them to be aware of making healthy choices and not being tempted to try something like that.”
Gossett said with e-cigarettes and vaping being such a new market, people need to be more aware of the information that is coming out on the subject.
“Even though someone might start vaping or using e-cigarettes because they think they might quit smoking that way, it should really not look like a healthier option,” she said. “I think they started promoting it as a healthier or a safer alternative to cigarettes, but we just don’t know enough about it at this point to make a conclusion.”