Students learn dangers of tobacco
by Rory Doyle
Dec 04, 2012 | 2397 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students at Pearman Elementary were treated to a performance recently by the RAT Pack, a group representing the Reject All Tobacco campaign, or RAT®.

The program is funded by the Mississippi State Department of Health in conjunction with The Partnership for a Healthier Mississippi.

RAT is the only tobacco-free campaign in the country created especially for children in grades K-3 focusing on the risks and consequences of using tobacco products.

One goal of the platform is to change attitudes about tobacco before children reach the age of experimenting with cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Cleveland School District Nurse Mandy Wilburn helps with tobacco prevention programming throughout the year, and said she was impressed with the show.

"This is an important program because it will help kids be prepared to make smarter choices when they are pressured later on in life," she said. "It seemed like the kids were really interested and paying close attention.

"I think it's also good that kids go home and tell their parents about the significance of second-hand and third-hand smoke."

Langston Moore, director of communication for The Partnership for a Healthier Mississippi said the concept of children "teaching up" to the parents is of utmost significance.

"We're finding that the children are very instrumental in helping our tobacco rates go down," Moore said. "They do an excellent job teaching the information they learn to the adults in their lives."

At the grassroots level, the centerpiece of the RAT program is the RAT Pack Show, a live troupe of singing and dancing kids led by a computer-animated rat named Terrance.

Audiences rap along with Terrance and his crew as they learn about all the harm tobacco can do.

The RAT Pack has performed for thousands of Mississippi youth over the course of the campaign.

Overwhelming demand for the show has led to the formation of five RAT Packs that are carrying their fun-filled, anti-tobacco message to children across Mississippi.

The primary objective is to reduce the number of Mississippi children who try tobacco by teaching them about the dangers involved.

Parents and students can go online to the RAT website to learn more tobacco facts and play educational games and activities.