Levittown – Zachery St. Germain knows the dangers of smoking.The Bucks County Technical High School senior said he has learned during prevention programs and in the classroom since elementary school about what could happen to him if he smokes. He’s also up to speed about the dangers of second-hand smoke.But Zachery had never heard of “third-hand smoke” until Tuesday morning. He learned about it while he and hundreds of other tech school students watched skateboarding, BMX and inline skating pros demonstrate their skills.
“Third-hand smoke” happens when tobacco smoke contamination lingers in carpets, sofas, clothes and other materials long after a cigarette is extinguished, said Jimmy Coleman, the program’s master of ceremonies as the pros took turns doing stunts on a portable half-pipe set up behind the school off Wistar Road in Bristol Township.Researchers from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston coined the phrase “third-hand smoke” in an article published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in late 2008.”That makes me scared,” said Zachery, 17, a civil engineering student, of the new tobacco threat. “Now I feel more scared than informed.”
Teen smoking rates have declined several percentage points since the 1990s, but still about one in every four students start using cigarettes, which often turn out to be a gateway drug to illegal substances, reports the American Cancer Society.The traveling anti-tobacco program, staged by ASA Entertainment in support of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, is designed to get students to think before they light up a cigarette or chew tobacco. To capture their attention, the program pairs demonstrations by action sports athletes including Koji Kraft, Marc Englehart, Trevor Meyer, Jay Stevason and John Parker with a verbal presentation from Coleman.He laid out the facts about the dangers of smoking, right down to the 69 carcinogens in a cigarette and the speed at which a person can get addicted to the nicotine in the smoking stick.”
The tobacco companies don’t care about you. All they care about is getting you hooked at a young age. That’s how they make money,” Coleman said.Xbox 360 and the U.S. Marine Corps, the program sponsors, offered to cover the costs involved with staging the production at the comprehensive tech school, which serves the Bensalem, Bristol, Bristol Township, Morrisville, Neshaminy and Pennsbury school districts.The tech school jumped at the offer, said health and physical fitness teacher Gerry Rooney.”We are always looking for ways to reach kids and this is right up their alley,” said Rooney, who plans to follow up on the demonstration with discussions about the dangers of tobacco in his health classes.Hopefully teens will get the message about the dangers of smoking and quit or not take it up at all, said Rebecca Graue, a tech school senior nursing student. “It’s not attractive,” said Rebecca, 18, a Bristol Township resident.Joan Hellyer can be reached at 215-949-4048 or jhellyer@phillyBurbs.com.