Each year, May 31 marks World No Tobacco Day, but this year in Hawai’i it also marks the last day of public school for the year. This last school year, tobacco education has increased dramatically on Kaua’i – especially with the pressing need to educate youth on the health hazards of vape products. But saying “no” to tobacco isn’t the only thing being taught during the presentations, healthy decision-making and refusal skills are critical skills that are being taught from elementary through high school.

Students, as young as kindergarten, are taught about healthy decision-making with an exercise that asks students their opinion on healthy foods and activity choices. Then each student is asked what they want to be when they grow up and if tobacco could hurt their chances of achieving their goals. Students are then able to draw themselves in a tobacco-free world.

For second through eighth grades, students learn about six different skills on how to say no to any unsafe or unhealthy activity, based off of tobacco education lessons. The students are also given time to role play and practice their confidence in real-world scenarios.

Class presentations on Kaua’i provide students education on the health hazards of tobacco products, including vapes, and also teach the skills of how to say no in various situations. Starting this course with our youngest generation and repeating the lesson year after year, will, hopefully, lead to a world no tobacco day every day and not just on May 31st.

In the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2017), 27.6 percent of middle schoolers and 45.3 percent of high schoolers on Kaua’i have tried vape products. This tells us the youth today need to start hearing the facts on vaping and tobacco use at the elementary school level before they are exposed to them in middle school.  We urge parents to begin the conversation as early as third grade about the dangers of tobacco use, including vaping and prepare them with facts before their peers have the opportunity to persuade them with myths.

This comprehensive lesson plan is known as “Tobacco-Free ME!” and is available for all schools and grade levels on Kaua’i. For more information or to schedule a presentation, please contact the Kaua’i Community Coalition Coordinator, Valerie Saiki, at Valerie@HIPHI.org.