For the past three weeks, my fellow M1’s and I have had the distinct pleasure of sitting anywhere from 2-4 hours in a freezing auditorium while listening to lecture after lecture regarding the harmful affects of smoking. I am talking, of course, about our mandatory Tobacco Cessation course. This class accumulates into a 1-day ‘field trip’ where assigned groups of 3-4 M1 students venture out into local middle schools and teach an anti-tobacco curriculum to the kids. Most of us were excited about this. We like kids, we like teaching, and we don’t like tobacco. The experience would have been perfect, had it not been scheduled the Friday before our anatomy exam. If it was pushed back even a week later, we would have had time to prepare what we were supposed to say, we would have sounded more enthusiastic and not tired as hell because we hadn’t been studying anatomy 24/7, and the experience overall would just have been more enjoyable- not just for us, but for the kids too!
So what do stressed out, first year medical students do when there’s a huge exam on Monday and you’re going to be teaching 6 periods of anti-tobacco use the Friday before?
We do it live. And hope that we don’t get asked something ridiculous.
In the middle of our first lesson, one of the kids put his hand up.
Me: Do you have a question?
Kid: Yes, I was wondering if smoking Smarties is as bad as smoking cigarettes?
If you’re wondering what ‘smoking Smarties’ is, watch this informative video (warning: watching this will make you stupider).
Basically, these kids are getting Smarties candy, crushing it up into a fine powder, putting the powder back into the original wrapping, rolling it up like a cigarette, and then inhaling the tiny candy particles and blowing them out to mimic the smoke from a cigarette.
Me: Uh…yeah, it’s bad for you
Kid: But why? It’s not actually smoke. It’s candy, and people eat candy everyday.
Me: Can you tell me what your lungs are for?
Kid: For breathing!
Me: Breathing what?
Me: Right, so do you think lungs are meant to breathe in particles of candy?
Kid: Oh…I guess not….
Team member: And those particles of candy can be sharp. Think about inhaling that and how those little razor-sharp pieces of candy are cutting up your lungs.
We got asked about smoking smarties during every period. It’s seriously a thing down here. My group and I tried to better address why smoking smarties isn’t good for you with each passing period. The kids had a lot of questions about it. How stuff like smoking Smarties gets started, I have no idea, but at least at the end of the day, we felt like we actually made a small impact as first year medical students. It felt like we were actually doctors. Teaching, answering questions and addressing concerns, educating people on health risks- those are all things that doctors do everyday! I’m glad that NSU put the program together and gave us that experience. Although we were all complaining about how bad the timing was with the exam on Monday, my classmates and I had fun doing it. Also, you need breaks in medical school. An 8 hour teaching-why-tobacco-is-bad-break may not be the most ideal, but it is so refreshing to do something intellectually stimulating that isn’t studying. If we prevented even one kid from starting to smoke, I would say the experience was well worth it.
Now we just need to do something about those kids that snort Pixy Stix and pretend that it’s cocaine.