ATLANTA — In the face of increasing numbers of youth who have been exposed to tobacco use, Georgia State University students and faculty from the Division of Respiratory Therapy are spending time making sure that Atlanta youth are aware of its dangers.
Lawrence O. Bryant, assistant professor of respiratory therapy, and his students volunteered at a Boys and Girls Club in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood during a recent health fair to share their knowledge and expertise in keeping lungs healthy.
“There is a rise in youth tobacco usage, and it was a perfect opportunity to address these issues,” Bryant said.
The professor and students helped to inform not only children but also adults on smoking, the dangers of second-hand smoke, as well as how to kick the habit. The outreach comes as a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General indicates that rates of decline for smoking have slowed in the last decade, and rates of decline for smokeless tobacco have stalled completely.
“Education is very, very important when it comes to health, because a lot of people don’t realize the impact that smoking has,” said Jason Harrel, a junior who helped at the event.
War Duncombe, a fellow junior respiratory student at the event, said that people are not often aware of the effects of second hand smoke and “third hand smoke” – nicotine residue that is left behind on furniture, walls, carpeting or even clothes – and their effects on infants and children.
“I have a teenager and smaller children, and I don’t want for them to be exposed or even have lung issues because of it,” Duncombe said. “I want to make sure we have a healthy world.”
Even as anti-smoking and anti-tobacco usage efforts have escalated over the past half century, the practices continue, and health professionals are going to have to take a more radical approach to fight the problem, Bryant said.
“Tobacco companies are being a lot more ingenious with their marketing practices,” he said. “We, on the other hand, have to be more creative and innovative in our approach.”
Bryant’s work has explored the Georgia Quit Line, a resource for people who wish to stop smoking, as well as outreach work with training “survivors” of smoking who have experienced disease to give presentations at area middle schools.
“Let them see a 25-year-old with a hole in his trachea,” he said. “You don’t have to smoke for 40 years to get lung cancer.”
April 4, 2012