Children learn dangers of drug use

By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
If only everyone would attack life with the same attitudes and beliefs they had in the 4th grade.
Decked out in "Be drug free" T-shirts and wearing ribbons that read "I've got better things to do than drugs," 4th graders at Ridgeview Elementary gathered in the library Wednesday afternoon to get an education on the dangers of tobacco use.
School counselor Vicki Olsen displayed pictures of tobacco ads with beautiful people looking cool and having fun smoking cigarettes to the students.
"Do we need to smoke to have fun boating, bowling and rock climbing?" she asked.
"No!" they responded in unison.
"How many of you can have a good morning without having a cigarette?" she asked while holding an ad of a person watching the sunrise with a smoke and cup of coffee.
The entire group raised their hand.
"Do you think all of these people could have just as much fun if they weren't smoking?" she asked.
"Yes!" they responded.
"Did you know some children start smoking when they're 10?" she asked.
The children gasped.
"I'd rather eat a bug than do a drug," one student responded when asked what she would do if someone asked her to try drugs.
Olsen's listen and respond session was an introduction to a presentation by Kent Nielson, director of the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.
Using pig lungs in his presentation, Nielson displayed how a healthy lung looks and works compared to a smoker's lung. He also used a model showing what decayed gums can look like after years of chewing tobacco.
His presentation seemed to have an immediate effect.
Students winced and moaned at the sight of the charred black, shrivelled lung.
"Gross!" was an expression frequently used.
"I want you to think of this when someone offers you a cigarette," he said.
Education sessions like the one at Ridgeview Elementary have been going on all week in Craig schools. Grand Futures and Moffat County schools cosponsored Red Ribbon Week as part of National Drug and Alcohol Prevention week.
Elementary students wore red ribbons, signed banners pledging they were drug free, had discussions about drugs and were shown videos about the dangers of drugs.
Students at the intermediate and elementary schools wore bracelets, had special red ribbon week announcements everyday and had a special dress-up day each day.
There was even a drug awareness carnival held for all Craig students Monday at the Craig Middle school.
In Wednesday's presentation, which he gave to students at all the schools throughout the week, Nielson instructed students on the dangers of drugs, but told them a person is not bad if he or she chooses to do so.
"Just because someone smokes or uses tobacco," he said, "It doesn't make them bad people. They're just choosing to do bad things to their body."
He also told a story of a rodeo rider who had to have practically half of his face removed because of the cancer that had formed from chewing tobacco.
He told the students that he used to chew and smoke, "But luckily I stopped," he said.
In reference to the charred lung, he said, "If I would have seen this when I was your age, I don't think I ever would have smoked."
Nielson was exceptionally busy the past few days with Red Ribbon Week, but his full-time job as Grand Futures director is to help promote prevention in the area.
He started his job in Craig in 1996, but said it is difficult to judge the impact of the state and federally granted program.
"The biggest problem with prevention is judging the impact," he said, "But if we can keep just one kid from ever starting, it's worth it."
He then posed a question to doubters.
"Are we willing to give up prevention programs and find out if there's an increase in drug use?" he asked. "Prevention is a lot less expensive than intervention and treatment."
Alison Hobson, counselor at Sunset Elementary, thinks red ribbon week and other forms of prevention are beneficial.
It's especially important to instill it in young children, who want to strive to be good people.
"Students at that age get really psyched about doing the right thing," she said. "They're very mindful about being good citizens."

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