School helping combat cigarette addiction in teens

Published 3:35 pm Friday, April 20, 2012

Debbie Hyatt has a revolving door of students that come in need of help throughout the day at Greenville High School.

As the school’s nurse, she treats everything from headaches to pink eye to the flu. However, one ailment she doesn’t have a quick fix for is addiction to cigarettes.

The Alabama Department of Public Health recently released statistics regarding cigarette users under the age of 18.

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“In the U.S., more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes,” an ADPH press release stated. “In Alabama, surveys indicate that an estimated 18.6 percent of high school students smoke and 10,000 Alabama youth under 18 become new daily smokers each year.”

Smoking can cut life expectancy as well as damage lungs and other vital organs, according to Hyatt.

“It can lead to lung cancer and not only that, it puts your loved ones at risk for second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke,” Hyatt said. “I read an article that pets suffer just as much damage as humans do by second hand smoke.”

Hyatt tries to teach the students that come through her door about self-care teaching. By hanging a poster outside her office full of fliers, pictures and organizations that help addiction to cigarettes, she hopes to help students quit.

“They may walk by it 100 times and not look at it, but it’s here,” Hyatt said.

A couple of years ago, Hyatt was able to help a student kick the habit.

“He gave me permission to talk to his parents and his parents were really supportive,” Hyatt said. “They took him to the doctor and they put him on the Nicorette gum. He would come once a day and he actually quit.”

According to the ADPH, there are 34 local comprehensive smoke-free ordinances that protect citizens from second-hand smoke in workplaces, restaurants and bars.

“These ordinances cover only 15 percent of the population,” the release stated. “At 22.6 percent, Alabama has the seventh highest smoking rate among adults, according survey data. As of 2010, Alabama ranked 47th in state excise tax at 42.5 cents per pack.”

One person that helps tremendously, according to Hyatt, is the resource officer at the school that can watch students on and off campus.

“He is invaluable and we make a good team,” Hyatt said. “He can talk to them from a legal aspect, I talk to them from a health standpoint and a counselor from a lifestyles aspect.”