Our school nurse was in today to talk with the students about cigarette smoking. She began with a short little Youtube video that I couldn’t help but admire for its genius, yet simple message. The first scenes were of teens and younger adults (who were unaware they were being videotaped) standing around in public places and smoking. These are images that are quite common. But what isn’t common comes next. A child of about 7 or 8 walks up to one of the adults and asks for a light for his cigarette. When he is turned down, he asks another. Over and over we see the adults say no. They even try to explain to the child how bad smoking is. They say things like, “It can cause heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer.” “It will make you look older and not in a good way.” “You don’t want to smoke. It will make your breath stink.”
After a parade of video clips in which the child receives these responses from different people, we see the same child walk up and had a piece of paper to each of the smokers. It says, “You are worried that smoking is bad for me. Why aren’t you worried that it’s bad for you?”
The video went on to say that almost all of the smokers who were given the letter thought for a moment and then put their cigarettes out. Absolutely all of them kept the note.
My students could see the irony in the messages the adults were giving the child. But then I also think many children get the “do as I say, not as I do” message more often than they should. I certainly hope the video lingers with them as it is lingering with me.