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Hospital of Central Connecticut oncology nurse navigator Noa Mencher is opening students’ eyes to the cruel effects of tobacco, class by class in Central Connecticut.
From the dangers of traditional cigarettes and newer e-cigarettes to risks of second-hand smoke, Mencher, RN, BSN, MPA, is getting the word out to students, in hopes of steering them from potential use of tobacco and nicotine in all its forms.
Last year, The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) began offering the educational program on tobacco’s risks to several schools. To date, the program has been presented to more than 1,000 middle school students combined at Pulaski Middle School in New Britain, Greene-Hills School in Bristol, Martin Kellog Middle School in Newington, and most recently, Dag Hammarskjold Middle School in Wallingford and Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School, Southington.
“I talk about what smoking and tobacco use do to the body, what second-hand smoke does,” says Mencher, adding most people don’t usually think of second-hand smoke as harmful but noting it’s as bad as smoking. She also shows students photos of tobacco’s visual effects on the body, including rotten teeth caused by smoking tobacco.
Educating this age group is critical, she says, because “they are the most susceptible and this is the age where they care a lot about appearances – how they appear to their friends and their peers. And this is when they’re going to start experimenting with smoking and tobacco.”
Area schools have been very receptive to HOCC’s educational efforts, which target students in grades 6, 7 and 8. “The age has to do with the fact that according to research, age 13 is the average age that kids start to explore smoking,” Mencher says.
Wellness Education teacher Jeremy Sloate of Greene-Hills School says Mencher’s presentation “promoted a healthy lifestyle and left a lasting impression on my students. Noa was able to tie in her authentic experiences to make the lesson meaningful and connect it with all grade levels.” Sloate says her visit was an additional resource in his drug education focus.
A nurse who guides cancer patients through their care, Mencher is particularly aware of smoking’s impact on the body. It can cause stroke, heart disease, artery disease, low birth weight and varied cancers, including of the lung, bladder, breast, head and neck.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012, there were more than 42 million U.S. adult smokers. Also, more than 480,000 people in the U.S. die annually from cigarette smoking, with about 41,000 of those deaths from second-hand smoke.
Mencher notes students thank her for the presentations and say they’ll tell their families about what they learned.
“I’m so happy we’re going to continue doing this,” Mencher says of the hospital’s program with area schools.
We’ve got plenty of upcoming events to help you connect to healthier.
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