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The Great American Smokeout:
Anti-Smoking Activities

The Great American Smokeout is a great time to get out the message: Smoking kills! Included: A "pack" of activities to drive home the anti-smoking message and a "carton" of anti-smoking Internet sites to visit!

More Lesson Ideas

Smoking Danger Demonstration
A simple experiment demonstrates smoking's harmful effects.

Smoking Stinks!
This book makes a big stink about smoking.

Web Sites to See
Truth Project
Joe Chemo

Every day, several thousand adolescents in the United States light up their first cigarette, according to statistics compiled by the American Cancer Society. That means that more than a million kids will start smoking this year! A third of those new smokers will eventually die of tobacco-related diseases.

The statistics are staggering. They highlight the need for tobacco education at every grade level in every school. "No one's kids are safe from the resurgence in smoking," warns University of Michigan social psychologist Lloyd Johnston. "All parents should be concerned and alerted." There there is no better time than right now -- just in time for the Great American Smokeout -- to begin the teaching!

Below, you'll find a bunch of cross-curricular activities and links to cool anti-smoking Internet sites for kids and teachers, so you've got no excuse. Include a bit of education about the dangers of smoking in every subject you teach!


From the American Cancer Society:

  • Eighty-nine percent of people who ever try a cigarette try by age 18. Almost no one starts the smoking habit during adulthood.
  • Seventy percent of adolescent smokers say they would never have started if they could choose again. That's because the nicotine in cigarettes is addictive. The risk of becoming addicted to nicotine is between one in two and one in three.
  • Tobacco is responsible for nearly one in every five deaths in the United States. It is the largest cause of preventable death.
  • More than 400,000 people die every year from smoking-related diseases. That's more than from alcohol, crack, heroin, murder, suicide, car accidents, and AIDS combined!


Math. How much does a pack of cigarettes cost in your state? Let students calculate the cost of a pack-a-day habit!

More math. According to a 2011 Daily Finance article, the average smoker smokes 13 to 16 cigarettes a day, or four to six packs a week. That translates to at least $1,500 a year. (The average price for a pack of cigarettes in the United States is now $5.58, though the price varies widely by state.)

"Think of what you could do with all that dough," challenges the Surgeon General in Up in Smoke!, one page on the SGR4Kids (short for the Surgeon General's Report for Kids) Web site. The site lists several things that a kid might do with the extra money. (NOTE: The site uses an older figure of $700 per year.) Challenge your students to be creative. Invite them to work individually or in pairs to come up with other things they might do with the extra money. Provide store catalogs and other advertisements; let them provide costs of other things they might wish to include.

Hands-on science. (At the lower grades, teachers should perform this demonstration.) Place a large cotton ball inside a plastic juice bottle. Seal the bottle with a chunk of modeling clay. Poke the filter end of a cigarette through the clay so that it's inside the bottle. Light the other end of the cigarette -- the end that's sticking out of the bottle. Slowly pump or squeeze the juice bottle half-a-dozen times to simulate a person puffing on the cigarette. Then remove the cigarette from the clay. Crush out the lit end. Invite students to take a close look at the cotton ball. Ask your students: What does this demonstration say to you about smoking?

Read a bar graph. (For younger students.) Click here for a Teaching Master that will provide your students with practice in reading a bar graph. (ANSWER KEY. 1. 17, 2. between the ages of 16-17, 3. 34, 4. 40, 5. between the ages of 18 and 20. Think About It. Accept reasoned responses, for example, lots of people start smoking at a young age.)

Geography. Use small sticky notes (for example, Post-Its) for this activity. Provide students with the information on the table below that tells how many cigarettes are consumed per person per year in the twenty countries with the heaviest tobacco consumption. Have each student write a country name and the corresponding number from the table on a sticky note and stick it on that country on a world map. Can students draw any conclusions about tobacco consumption by looking at the map? Create questions for students to answer using the map. For example:

  • Which country matches the United States in cigarette consumption? (Spain)
  • In which country do people consume more cigarettes -- the United States or Canada? (the United States)
  • In how many countries on the map does the average person consume more than 3,000 cigarettes each year? (five countries).
1. Poland 3,620   11. United States 2,670
2. Greece 3,590   12. Spain 2,670
3. Hungary 3,260   13. Canada 2,540
4. Japan 3,240   14. New Zealand 2,510
5. Rep. of Korea 3,010   15. Ireland 2,420
6. Switzerland 2,910   16. Germany 2,360
7. Iceland 2,860   17. Belgium 2,310
8. Netherlands 2,820   18. Israel 2,290
9. Yugoslavia 2,800   19. Cuba 2,280
10. Australia 2,710   20. Bulgaria 2,240

Survey/create a graph. Students can survey ten family members, neighbors, or others over the age of 18. Individuals respond "yes" to the statement below that most closely describes their smoking history:

  • I smoke now.
  • I used to be a smoker, but I no longer smoke.
  • I have never smoked.

Each student creates a bar graph to show his/her individual results for each of the three statements. Then all students' results are tallied to create a class graph. (Older students can figure out percentages and show the class results as a pie chart.)

Art/puzzles. Invite students to draw pictures/advertisements to warn younger students about the dangers of smoking. Cut up the posters to make simple jigsaw puzzles for the younger students.

Read aloud. Read aloud to students from the books Smoking Stinks! by Kim Gosselin (JayJo Books, 1997) or Smoking: A Risky Business by Laurence Pringle (William Morrow, 1996).

Survey/create a table. Students hand out a survey to at least ten people. (Click here for a copy of the survey to be printed.) Respondents must put a checkmark in one of the three columns (agree, disagree or no opinion/don't know) next to each statement. Students tally their results and create a chart to show those results (similar to the chart shown halfway down the Facts You Should Know Web page). Then all the students' sheets are gathered and tallied together to come up with the class's results. (Younger students can tally raw numbers; older students can show the final tally as percentages.)

Critical thinking. Collect a series of cigarette magazine advertisements. Space them out on a large sheet of mural paper. Let students write their reactions near each of the advertisements to this question: How does each ad try to make smoking look like fun or like a good, healthy thing to do? After students complete the activity, talk about the ideas written on the mural. (Before or after you do this activity, share the five magazine ads and the kids' comments found on the Be an Ad Buster Web page, which is part of the Surgeon General's SGR4Kids Web site).

Create a line graph. (For upper elementary students and above.) Click here for a Teaching Master that will provide you students with practice in creating a line graph.

ABC order. More than 500 ingredients are added to tobacco during the cigarette manufacturing process. You'll find a bunch of those chemicals listed below. (These are just a few from the start of the list. Do they sound good for your body?) Adjust the list to your grade level and invite students to place the list of ingredients in ABC order. (The list below appears in alpha order; mix them up for your students.)

acetic acid acetophenone aconitic acid
ammonia ammonium bicarbonate ammonium sulfide
amyl alcohol benzaldehyde benzoic acid
benzoin benzoin resin benzyl alcohol
butyl acetate butyric acid calcium carbonate
camphene cananga oil castoreum
cinnamic acid citronellyl butyrate decanal
decanoic acid diethyl acetate dimethylbenzyl alcohol
ethyl acetate ethyl alcohol ethyl bezoate

Board game. (Click here for questions to use with this game. Or let students find smoking-related facts on the Internet and make up their own smoking-related statements.) Write each fact on an index card. Some facts are true and some are false. Player 1 rolls a die or spins a spinner. Player 2 takes a card from the stack and reads the statement on that card to Player 1. If Player 1 responds with the correct true/false answer, that player moves ahead on the game board. Then it's Player 2's turn. Player 3 reads the question. And so the game goes until one player reaches "home."

Art/language. Invite students to design their own smoke-free buttons. Wear them on the Great American Smokeout, held every year on the third Thursday of November.

Discussion Web/Debate. Use the Discussion Web format to guide students as they respond to this debate question:

Assume smoking is illegal in your state for anyone under age 21. Your state is considering a law that would take away the driver's license from anyone under the age of 21 who is caught smoking or who tests positive for nicotine when a urine test is administered. Is this a fair policy? Yes or no?

(Note: Following the Discussion Web procedure, students think first about the question on their own. Next, they join with a partner to share ideas. Then two pairs of partners join together to decide on one idea that they wish to present to the class for discussion.)

Writing. Your school principal has invited you to sit on a committee that will come up with a no-smoking policy. What should the punishment be for getting caught smoking on school grounds? Explain your reasoning for this punishment.

Explore the Web

Let your students go online explore some of the great sites that teach kids and teens about the dangers of tobacco.

Related Sites

Not On Tobacco
Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) is the American Lung Association’s (ALA's) voluntary program for teens who want to quit smoking. It is the most researched, most widely used and most successful such program in the United States.

Tobacco-Free Kids
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids advocates for public policies proven to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.

Great American Smokeout
The official site of the Great American Smokeout.

Posters With a Message
Click on any of five posters with anti-smoking messages. By clicking you'll view and print out a larger version of the posters.

The BADvertising Institute
I like this site for middle and high school students. I includes lots of great critical thinking activities, including spoofs on tobacco advertising and ideas for discussion questions and community-based research projects related to smoking. It doesn't shy away from the gross; the site includes graphic photos of oral cancers. Might be just the cure for a teenager who's thinking of taking up tobacco!

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
"For everybody concerned about smoking and protecting the rights of nonsmokers," this site has all the latest news related to cigarettes and the tobacco industry. Includes news of ongoing class-action lawsuits and a section with news related to Kids and Smoking.

Sites for Parents, Educators, and Youth Group Leaders
Links from the CDC to resources for educating kids about the dangers of tobacco and smoking.

Be Tobacco Free
This site from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is a consumer guide to tobacco information, including health effects, laws and policies, and tips to quit and never start smoking. The site contains several sections devoted to youth-specific resources.


Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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