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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA Tar Wars chapter delivers education on health effects of tobacco to youth

A UA group is working to promote tobacco-free living. The student-run organization Tar Wars visits fourth and fifth-grade classes around Tucson to provide education about the consequences of smoking.

The UA chapter of Tar Wars is part of the national organizatio Academy of Family Physicians. The club has been a staple of the UA College of Medicine for years, but this year the club has opened its membership availability to undergraduate students as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. is smoking.

“I thought, with medical students being so busy and this being such an important cause, that having more manpower would be great. So we decided to start a chapter on the undergraduate campus,” said Audriana Hurbon, coordinator for Tar Wars at the UA College of Medicine.

Hurbon said the medical perspective of this group helps give students a broader understanding of the health risks associated with smoking.

“People around the community and teachers can do it themselves, but having a medical perspective and having people that are geared towards pre-health professions gives them a unique perspective on some of the issues and a better understanding of the health complications that we address,” Hurbon said.

That medical background is one aspect that prompted Hurbon, a second-year medical student, and Nicole Morgan, president of Tar Wars’s undergraduate chapter and a physiology senior, to join the organization.

“We both do research related to asthma and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], so we see from a scientific perspective the horrible outcomes of smoking. We see it on a cellular level, how it just destroys lungs, and so it’s really easy to be passionate on our end because we see it so blatantly,” Hurbon said. “I think that’s a really big reason to go out there and raise awareness for something, because not everyone gets that opportunity.”

The organization’s presentations discuss the social, financial and health consequences of smoking. They discuss anything from dealing with peer pressure to how much money the addiction to tobacco would cost over a lifetime.

“In terms of health, we bring in some [preserved] cadaver lungs from healthy lungs and then from smoker lungs. The healthy ones you can see are yellow, and then the other ones are black,” Hurbon said. “The kids get to touch them and they get a real big kick out of that. They can just think back to those lungs and have a reason not to smoke.”

While the size of the audience that gets to see these black lungs varies from one small classroom to a large assembly, the age group is what the national organization is targeting.

“I feel like it’s important to increase awareness to those younger age groups. When they grow up they might be thinking more of the social aspect, so I think if you raise awareness when they are younger, that’s the best way to lower the percentage of smokers in our state,” Morgan said.

The increased awareness directed toward this age group can pay off by getting through to the students. Hurbon has physical evidence of the change the organization is making in these young students’ lives.

“I have a stack of these really adorable letters that they once wrote us talking about why they weren’t going to [smoke] and how it has impacted them in the future,” Hurbon said. “I think it gets through to them.”

Follow Ava Garcia on Twitter.

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