Andrea and Shannon were the best of friends. They had met in grade two, when Shannon moved across the street from Andrea and had instantly become inseparable. This September they were both in Ms. Van Laar’s grade five class. Our story begins one lazy summer afternoon in the suburbs.
It was a beautiful summer day. Andrea and Shannon were, as usual, skateboarding through the park on their way to nowhere in particular. Andrea slowed near a clearing they liked to hang out in and jumped off of her board. Shannon followed.
“I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got!” Andrea exclaimed. “I saw the best movie last night on T.V., it had the most, like, amazing woman who worn all black and beat up all the men. Oh yeah, she smoked cigarettes out of this long holder like this” exhaling while outstretching her arm. “She looked so cool!”
“You’re so lucky your parents let you watch satellite, mine are so, you know, parental. So what’s the big secret?”
Andrea struggled with the zipper on the knapsack “I’ve got two cigarettes! One for you and one for me, I stole them from my Dad’s pack this morning. I want to practice smoking just like the lady from the movie.”
Shannon swallowed hard; she had always gone along with Andrea’s crazy ideas in the past. Usually they were harmless and she always had fun, but Shannon wasn’t sure about this one. Her parents had always said smoking was wrong and that it would make her sick.
Andrea saw the uneasiness in Shannon’s face, she knew if she pushed Shannon would cave, she always did. “You do want to try it don’t you? She said.
“Of course.” She replied. Shannon knew Andrea would never let up or let her forget it if she didn’t go along. Besides it was just a cigarette. You wouldn’t be able to buy them if they were that bad for you. Would you?
They took turns lighting them and each took long drags… “cough, cough, hack!!” both Shannon and Andrea began to cough. “Don’t take so much” Andrea exclaimed, “like this...” she inhaled slowly like the actress in the movie. As they smoked their cigarettes, Shannon felt dizzy and thought she might throw up, but she kept smoking. It didn’t seem to bother Andrea and Shannon couldn’t figure out why. She giggled the whole time while practicing exhaling, just like in the movie.
Once they were finished they jumped back on their skateboards and started down the trail again. Shannon’s heart was beating really fast, she still felt a little dizzy and slightly out of breath. “Hey Andrea, lets go to my place, I’m tired of boarding.”
“OK” Andrea replied
By the time the girls arrived home, Shannon felt fine. They were both laughing and carrying on as they burst through the front door. Shannon’s mom was in the kitchen and came out to great them, but the smile quickly faded from her face. “Have you two been smoking?” she questioned. The girls didn’t realize that they stunk like cigarette smoke. No one smoked in Shannon’s house so the smell was overwhelming to her mom. Her mom grabbed Shannon’s hands and smelled them. “You have been smoking! I want both of you to come and sit down right now.”
“Do you know what smoking does to your body? Smoking, even one cigarette decreasing the oxygen carried in the blood. Carbon monoxide and other gases replace oxygen with each inhalation of cigarette smoke. Smoking increases your heart rate. Your heart has to beat faster to get more oxygen by accessing a greater volume of oxygen-poor blood. Smoking for a long time decreases the size of your blood vessels, while a build-up of fat deposits makes blood vessels and arteries smaller, which limits the blood supply to the heart. Don’t you remember Grandpa’s heart attack Shannon that was caused by smoking. Grandpa’s blood vessel became completely blocked by these deposits and stopped the flow of blood. He almost died.”
Shannon did remember… she was very little when it happened and remembered how upset her mother had been at the time. Grandpa was fine now. He hadn’t smoked a cigarette since his heart attack.
Shannon’s mother continued. “Cigarettes can also cause lung cancer. They damage the lungs in two ways. First cigarette smoke damages the normal cleaning process making it more difficult for the lungs to get rid of harmful particles. Smoke destroys an important cleansing layer in the lungs, which in turn causes a build-up of mucus. The result is "smokers' cough."
“The harmful cancer-producing particles in cigarette smoke are able to remain lodged in the mucus and develop into cancer. The excess mucus makes breathing difficult results in constant coughing. Tobacco smoke contains many harmful chemicals, and the smoke itself limits our lungs' natural cleaning system. Cigarette smoke also contains substances that directly damage the lung tissue. Smoking irritates the bronchial tubes in the lungs. Long-term exposure to cigarette smoke destroys the structure of our lungs, reducing their capacity to absorb oxygen. At the same time, the tiny airways, which transfer oxygen from the lungs to the blood vessels, are destroyed, resulting in less oxygen getting into the bloodstream. Smokers also have a higher incidence of throat and lung infections.”
Shannon and Andrea just sat there and waited for her to continue. You didn’t interrupt her if you knew what was good for you.
“Now lets talk about Emphysema, or "lung rot" as it is often called. This is a degenerative disease. It shows up as shortness of breath. It makes people wheeze and leaves them feeling breathless. As the disease progresses, breathing becomes a major effort. Nothing can be done to correct the damage caused by emphysema. Lung damage is permanent and cannot be reversed. Emphysema is a debilitating disease and as people become older, they become progressively weaker. Long-term smoking causes nearly all cases of emphysema. Those who smoke approximately 20 cigarettes a day will, sooner or later, have some sign of the disease.”
“Now girls do you still want to smoke?” Shannon’s mom asked.
“No way!” replied Shannon
Andrea didn’t say anything, her dad smoked and he didn’t have any of those diseases. Shannon’s mom sensed her uncertainty. “You know what else girls, Canadian teenagers smoke more than 1.6 billion cigarettes each year - resulting in retail sales worth more than $330 million. Just think about what else could be done with that money. Think of all of the skateboards you could buy.”
“I’m not telling you all of this to scare you, I just want to you to make informed decisions about smoking. I won’t always be around and both of you will be offered cigarettes again in your life.” Shannon’s mom paused. “Alright, you two can go now.” Both Andrea and Shannon leaped from the couch and grabbed their boards heading for the door. “Oh Andrea, by the way, I will be talking to your parent tonight.”
SLAM went the door as the girls jumped on their boards and took off down the street!
Why did Shannon feel dizzy and out of breathe?
Why do you suppose Andrea didn’t feel dizzy and out of breathe?
How did Shannon’s mom know that they were smoking?
Name three diseases caused by smoking cigarettes. Explain how.
Do you think Shannon will smoke again? Do you think Andrea will smoke again? Why or why not?
What do you think will happen at Andrea’s house tonight?
Grades 5 to 8 Science: Manitoba Curriculum Framework of Outcomes (2002)
Health Canada web site: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/lifestyles/index.html (October 10, 2003)
The Scoop on Smoking - Health Canada for Youth web site: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/tobacco/youth/scoop.html#never (October 10, 2003)