This section has students look at how they act, feel, and think. Topics covered include self-esteem, social image, decision-making skills, and personal values (what is important to each student). The activities are designed to provide students with a chance to practice decision making and to empower them to make healthy choices.
One predictor in the experimentation and escalation phases of tobacco uptake is self-image—some adolescents turn to tobacco because they think it will give them a better image.4 Low self-esteem is another factor that influences a young person’s decision to use tobacco.
To start this activity, ask students to brainstorm words or phrases that come to mind when they think of people using tobacco. Explain that the number of people using tobacco has decreased over the past few decades.16
When a comment reflecting the perception that using tobacco makes people look “cool” is raised, challenge students to explain why. Ask them to provide specific instances to support their notion that it looks cool. Chances are that any student thinking it looks cool will point to media representation. Ask these students:
Spend time discussing how important “image” should be, especially when there is a difference between image and reality. Remind students of the health consequences of tobacco use, and show them the poster with the images depicting these health issues. The poster is included in the “Materials” section. There is nothing cool about these pictures.
In this exercise, students will examine how they see themselves and the image that they want to portray. Share the digital activity link. Students will select and/or type 10 adjectives that they feel are self-descriptive. Then, they will look at an illustration of young people using tobacco and select and/or type adjectives to describe their perception of the characters.
Once their lists are completed, students should compare them. Create two columns on the board with the headers “Us” and “The Characters.” Ask for volunteers to share adjectives and write them under each column. If you feel your students might be reticent to share their lists, you can suggest adjectives for the “Us” column.
Remind students that perceptions are subjective. Encourage them to talk about what they might have learned about themselves and about how others see them. Then move the conversation in the direction of what constitutes a positive self-image, and raise the issue of how some people begin using tobacco simply because of how they think it makes them look.
Refer back to the words on the board. If your students have a positive perception of the characters in the illustration, ask them to explain why. See if some students a) think it looks cool to smoke, b) think it looks cool but isn’t worth the risk, or c) think it looks ridiculous. Try to bring the conversation around to a discussion of how, when it comes to tobacco, there aren’t any “positive” images.
To emphasize the point, display the poster depicting the health consequences of tobacco use. Refer to the list of words and tell students, “Keep in mind that the pictures and facts on the poster are reality.”