Julia Van Dam

Students learn of nicotine’s harmful effects through performance

École Mother Teresa School students welcomed and paid close attention to a theatrical performance teaching them the negative consequences

École Mother Teresa School students welcomed and paid close attention to a theatrical performance teaching them the negative consequences of nicotine last Thursday.

Through the presentation, Butt Ugly, the school’s elementary students learned of the harm smoking can cause, and were told how to react in social situations when offered a cigarette or chewing tobacco.

“We want them to learn that this is a really risky product to experiment with, and the best thing to do is never start, because now the product is more addictive than cocaine,” said Butt Ugly founder and general manager Gail Foreman. “Twenty-three per cent of people get addicted to cocaine on the first try, and 32 per cent get addicted to tobacco the first time.”

Instead of showing the students pictures of tar-filled lungs or photos of people who have smoked for their entire lives, actors related to the students through theatre pieces that are age-targeted.

“There’s no preaching involved — we get the theme messages across using the theatre piece, then we break into small groups where the actors do some activities with the kids to try and cement what they have learned,” Foreman said.

The group of actors comprises high school students from Red Deer whose roles constitute work experience. As positive role models, they encourage youngsters against smoking.

“From research, we have found that kids who have seen and participated in our program are less likely to start using tobacco than others who have not,” Foreman said. “It uses theatre, it’s a peer-led program and the actors are people the kids want to be like. they have a lot more credibility with this audience.”

Mother Teresa principal Dorice Swensrude stayed for the entire performance, and positively commented on how “it’s a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about the negative effects of tobacco.”