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Reaching Kids With ‘Tar Wars’

Reaching Kids With ‘Tar Wars’

SAN DIEGO--A 13-year-old program developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians can make inroads in educating students about myths and misconceptions of tobacco, said Anne Slivjak, RN, MSN, AOCN, a research assistant in the Nursing Research Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Ms. Slivjak explained the program, known as "Tar Wars," and its benefits at the 26th Annual Conference of the Oncology Nursing Society (abstract 186). She said that the program was presented at local elementary schools as a project of the Philadelphia Area Chapter Oncology Nursing Society.

"This is a smoking prevention program that asks volunteers, such as health professionals, to go into elementary schools and teach fourth and fifth grade students," Ms. Slivjak said. "It’s wonderful because they give you the curriculum and you teach yourself the material. The premise is you want to teach kids to make good choices."

In the program, kids are taught that most people don’t smoke, that, in fact, most people in every age group choose not to smoke. Fun exercises involving the children are part of the program to make important points, such as what it’s like to be out of breath. Additionally, the children are exposed to a variety of short-term effects that, Ms. Slivjak said, have a more immediate effect on them.

"The most important things are the short-term effects because kids don’t care about cancer and heart disease," she said. "They do care about the fact that your breath stinks and that cigarettes cost money that you can’t then spend on CDs and movies." The program also deals with peer pressure and teaches kids about the messages they get from the media.

Ms. Slivjak has been involved in the program for 2 years. "This year my goal is to get more nurses in my organization to do it," she said. She stressed that nurses can make a difference by volunteering to do the program for just one fourth or fifth grade class. "They can stay in their neighborhood and do it at their own children’s school," she said.

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