Hundreds of UCF nursing students poured into a crowded ballroom donning their signature blue and white community uniforms, ready for a special training seminar. The purpose was to learn the tobacco training curriculum in order to implement the program in the community.

The training was sponsored by the Central Florida Area Health Education Center (CFAHEC), who obtained funding by the Florida Department of Health through the master tobacco settlement. Offering tobacco-related trainings to current and future health care professionals is one of the major goals CFAHEC’s tobacco program has committed to providing in the local community.

The tobacco prevention training is geared toward middle school aged-youth to inform them of the health risks related to tobacco use. UCF’s nursing students will share with the middle school students just how dangerous tobacco products really are and the different ways their bodies will be impacted by the harmful chemicals. The lessons are presented by the nursing students in their clinical group teams in local middle schools and Boys and Girls Clubs. The various classroom activities are designed to stress the importance of tobacco abstinence while highlighting the negative implications of tobacco use such as emphysema, blackened lungs and the cost of this addiction.

“The children need to know that it’s not okay to use tobacco products just because their parents or siblings do,” says UCF nursing student Tarin Newill. “Hopefully they will share what they have learned from the program and encourage their loved ones to quit.”

The CFAHEC instructor demonstrated some of the exercises the students will implement in their classrooms. The nursing students were asked to carry cards labeled with various toxins found in cigarettes. Students held cards that read ‘carbon monoxide’, ‘arsenic’, ‘formaldehyde’, and many others. This matching exercise shows poisons and carcinogens and pairs them with their common use in the real world. Middle school students will make the connection that arsenic is used to kill rats and other pets, but is also a key ingredient in cigarettes.

“We are so grateful for this partnership with the UCF College of Nursing. With hard work and dedication from their students, we are able to impact many more young lives in our community,” noted CFAHEC trainer Bethany Majka.  “The positive feedback the nursing students receive from the youth they are teaching is truly inspirational.”

A one-liter bottle filled with molasses and hair gel simulates the amount of nicotine and phlegm built up in a smoker’s lung in just one year. “Visuals like these will help the nursing students impress upon the young children how dangerous it is to start smoking; no matter how ‘cool’ they might think it is,” says Majka.

“The CFAHEC Tobacco Prevention Program will be implemented in classrooms all over the Central Florida community thanks to the CFAHEC grant and the hard work and dedication of our students,” explains Dr. Pamela Ark, coordinator of the college’s service-learning Community Nursing Coalitions program. The nursing program performs local community service through many programs. “UCF places a high value on community health education. Helping the children in our community become educated about the health risks of tobacco smoking will raise awareness and hopefully save lives,” adds Dr. Ark.

Contributing Writer: Heather Robbins, communications intern