Non-Smoking Program for youths... By Kris Casavant Over the past two years, B.C. has accelerated its tobacco prevention efforts through education and legislation. In addition to National Non-Smoking week, Jan. 18-22, and the province's newest tobacco prevention initiative, Talk About It Tuesday, youths in Grade 7 this year will partake in a brand new curriculum which includes a tobacco prevention unit. "The course comes complete with interactive information and videos which promote anti-smoking," says Sandra Epplett, who teaches the Grade 7 class at Whistler Secondary. "One of the many ideas which we try to get across to the kids is positive imaging, or what the media does to promote healthy lifestyle and living." The anti-smoking unit is directed at the younger grades as an attempt to stop youths from smoking before they start. Statistics show that 85 per cent of smokers in B.C. start before they are 16, and that the average age for a teen to begin smoking is 15 1/2. "The majority of kids who are un-educated about nicotine addiction feel that if they begin to smoke now, they can always quit later. This of course, is far from the truth," said Epplett. The students work with the program for roughly four weeks, and deal with a wide variety of issues related to tobacco prevention and reduction. "One of the most interesting activities during the course were two of the videos that showed a variety of anti-smoking commercials, which the kids rated on a scale of effectiveness. It was also quite interesting to see how the opinions of the youths differed from what the Ministry of Education would have thought to be affective," said Epplett. Some students also felt quite positively toward the new curriculum. "I think that the course is quite affective in helping young people realize the dangers of smoking," said Jordan Taylor, who is currently taking the tobacco prevention course. "We talk about the hard facts and all aspects of tobacco addiction, and how it can affect the body." When asked about how the course may have been improved, Taylor replied: "I think that the course should include more real life demonstrations, where the students actually get to see the effects of smoking on an individual." Aside from the Grade 7 students in Whistler Secondary, no other grades have had the tobacco prevention unit. "There hasn't really been any development in non-smoking programs for Grades 8 to 12, but we certainly welcome anyone who wishes to pick up on the subject," says Rick Smith, principal for Whistler Secondary.