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DeBakey Students (from left) Julian Ruger and Tabitha Pravinkumar, at the Texas Educator’s Summit for ASPIRE. (Photo: MD Anderson)
Most high school students are acquainted with someone in their lives with a smoking addiction.
2020 marks the second year MD Anderson partnered with DeBakey High School and HISD with the Aspire program. The Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience caught my attention after the 54 vaping related deaths recently. The program runs in both English and Spanish, making it more accessible to students in HISD. It is now incorporated into many middle schools’ health class curriculums. At DeBakey, we’re encouraged to complete the program.
Researchers at MD Anderson developed ASPIRE to educate youth in the community to avoid smoking and vaping, or to stop. The program involves the use of videos, interactive games, question/answer sets, quizzes, and interesting facts about smoking. The interactive games distinguish the program from other smoking/vaping prevention programs because of how realistic it is. The game starts out with a scenario. For example, you’re at a party with your best friend who you find smoking marijuana. This friend develops a smoking addiction. What should you do when they offer you a smoke?
When given choices as to what to do in that circumstance, I found myself pretty conflicted. The program puts you in realistic situations that most people don’t often consider. Hypothetically, most people would just pass on the smoke if they were asked, but when given an actual situation, it’s tempting. The program allows you to choose the next move, and continues from there. It teaches basic things, like how to simply say no and how/where to get help if need be.
Most smokers began smoking or vaping before they turned 18. Targeting this program at youth in middle and high schools deters smoking in youth. Some of scenarios in the program and oriented towards college life and college parties. This ensures that we know exactly how to stay safe and avoid smoking once we leave high school.
ASPIRE is an incredible resource for students to learn about the dangers of e-cigs, hookah, JUUL, and synthetic marijuana, all smoke/vape products that students are likely to encounter in high school or in the years after. The program taught me a lot about the dangers of nicotine and tobacco use that I otherwise would not have known.