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How can I act now?

Join a TRASH coalition and help plan a smoke free activity.


Approximately 4,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 years initiate cigarette smoking.

Smoking at School

What should I do if I see someone smoking at school? If you see someone smoking at school it means that the non-smoking rules that apply to every school are not being strictly enforced.

As a first step, you should approach one of your teachers and tell him/her about your concerns. He or she should be willing to relay that information to the principal or vice principal who is in charge of enforcing the non-smoking rules.

Next, if you’re really serious about working towards a totally smoke-free school, tell that teacher (or someone else in the school administration) that you are interested in organizing non-smoking activities at school. Then get together with other non-smoking activists (teamwork is always better!!) and start thinking about ways to increase student awareness of the negative health effects of tobacco use. Some ideas: You could start a TRASH coalition, organize tobacco-free sports challenges, teach about the harmful effects of tobacco use to elementary school kids, coordinate or attend tobacco free concerts, distribute TRASHpostcards, wear or use your TRASH gear, and don’t forget to spread the news about the Maryland TRASH Web site.

That’s the activist approach. On a one-to one basis, though, if you see one of your classmates smoking and you want to say something right away, you could. Remember that if you start asking questions, you should focus your conversation on the other person’s interest in quitting, and offer help.

Once you are confident that your classmate understands that you are truly concerned and willing to help:

  • Offer information about cessation classes or participation in a TRASH coalition or other school club/group
  • Ask if they’ve ever tried to quit

If they say yes:

  • Ask when, and how long they remained a non-smoker
  • Ask if they felt any physical change (withdrawal symptoms, better smell and taste, more lung capacity)
  • Ask why they started again
  • Reassure them. Remind them that most people have to try to quit several times before they are finally able to kick the habit for good

If they say no:

  • Ask if they have ever considered quitting
  • If they say no, tell them that you are concerned about their health, that you have been reading a lot about tobacco and that, if he/she ever wants to quit they should contact you. (For this type of person non-smoking activities that focus on the health effects of tobacco use are more likely than your own personal speeches to supply the trigger that person needs to begin thinking about quitting.)
  • If they say yes, be supportive and encourage them to do it. Tell them you are concerned about their health, that you have been reading a lot about tobacco and know of several Web pages that offer information on how to quit. Offer your unconditional help to get more info, to spend time with them if they need to stay away from smokers, and to do whatever else is needed to help them stay quit. Tell them you are very happy for them since soon after they quit they will begin to feel the benefits.