Anti-smoking push invades Mount Si High
January 12, 2011
By Sebastian Moraga
No asinine behavior, no pranks, no bad attitude. In fact, these buttheads were nothing but friendly.
Wearing large cigarette-butt masks on their heads, Mount Si High School students walked around campus posing for pictures and passing out fliers on smoking prevention.
Phoebe Terhaar, the school district’s student assistance prevention and intervention specialist, chaperoned the in-costume students through the hallways of the school. She counted stair steps for them, warned them about low ceilings, guided them and helped them spread the gospel of a smoke-less life.
In the last 10 years, smoking rates have plummeted in the state, Terhaar said. With funding for education programs drying up, she fears they might spike again.
By the end of January, the school will begin what Terhaar calls a cessation program for students at Mount Si wanting to quit using cigarettes or smokeless tobacco.
According to a Washington State Department of Health report titled “Disparities in Youth Tobacco Use in Washington State,” 45 children start smoking every day in the state. About 70,000 children smoke cigarettes, the June, 2009 report stated.
The reasons teenagers start smoking haven’t changed much over the years. Boredom, peer pressure, anxiety and depression are but a few, Terhaar said.
Terhaar said students who smoke are more likely to get Cs, Ds and Fs at school. The report added that students who smoke were more likely to get drunk or high at school, skip school, feel unsafe at school, get suspended or be bullied
Lastly, Terhaar said tobacco acted as a gateway drug.
The report backs Terhaar by stating that youth who smoked cigarettes were more likely to drink alcohol, use marijuana and other drugs.
Seventy-four percent of smoking eighth graders and 78 percent of smoking 10th- graders in the study also said they drink alcohol, compared to 12 and 24 percent of non-smokers, respectively.
Sixty-one percent of smoking eighth-graders in the study and 68 percent of smoking 10th- graders said they also smoke pot, compared to 4 and 11 percent of non-smokers, respectively.
Twenty-nine percent of smoking eighth-graders and 33 percent of smoking 10th-graders said they use other drugs, compared to 1 and 3 percent of non-smokers, respectively.
“Early intervention remains the best way to prevent,” Terhaar said. “We want students to know there’s support here.”
At the same time, the situation is far from critical, she added in an e-mail.
“While we still have work to do as a community,” she wrote, “it is encouraging to note that the majority of our students are not using tobacco on a regular basis.”
The 2010 data of the Healthy Youth Survey will have updated information on tobacco use among teenagers and will be unveiled in May.
Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.