Straws Help Students Say No to Smoking

East Islip High School students who might otherwise turn into smokers got a heavy dose of reality recently, when they were the recipients of math teacher Patricia Sawicki’s presentation on the dangers of tobacco use. “Every year I do a talk about the dangers of smoking because my cousin who passed away a couple of years ago asked me to tell the kids that I teach about it,” Sawicki explained. “She was a great person and she had a big heart. She got hooked on cigarettes in high school and put up a brave fight against emphysema.”

In an accompanying demonstration, the students were given stirrer straws to breathe through, to provide a realistic experience of what it is like to live with emphysema. To their surprise, most could barely last a minute with such limited oxygen capacity. When Sawicki began her annual anti-smoking talks about 16 years ago, she started out with a huge box of straws from the cafeteria. Now the box is almost empty, illustrating just how many students she has reached and hopefully prevented from getting addicted to nicotine.

“Many students have talked to me about how dramatic the effect of that day was and how it strengthened their determination to not smoke,” Sawicki says. “A lot of kids also talk to me about how they are cutting down on how many cigarettes they smoke per day. This is something that I am proud to do in her memory.”