Volume 6, Number 2, 1997

GNAT(S) attack smoking

They call themselves GNAT(S), and smoking really bugs them. The Graduate Nurses Against Tobacco is a group of eight women who, last summer, decided to take action against smoking and its appeal to elementary school children.

The students, all working nurses with a myriad of other responsibilities, never realized that before the project was over, they would learn the fine art of video producing.

The group had taken several courses together and, last year, asked instructor Peggy Birney, Delaware '78M, assistant professor of nursing, if they could work together on a special project to satisfy course requirements for Medical-Surgical Nursing III in the college's Cardiopulmonary Clinical Nurse Specialist track.

"We were sitting in class last spring, all dreading the thought of writing another paper in the fall, when we came up with the idea of some sort of group project that would benefit the community," Dianne Halpern, Delaware '98M, said.

Birney agreed, and, in follow-up brainstorming sessions, the group decided to mount an anti-smoking campaign aimed at children ages 8-10.

"It was natural for this group to want a community prevention focus because most of their patient population is ill from the effects of smoking- heart and lung disease, asthma, sinus problems, lung and mouth cancer," Birney says.

"This wasn't a 'stop' smoking program," she stresses. "It was designed to discourage children from smoking before they ever start. Statistics from the National Institutes of Health show that children start to think about smoking between the ages of 8-10. This prevention project was targeted to that age group."

"We did research and found that there isn't much anti-smoking material aimed at pre-adolescents," Halpern says. "The state already has a package of materials for eighth and ninth graders, so we picked the younger audience. It's hard to believe, but kids that age are exposed to the temptation to smoke."

After much discussion, the group decided to get its message across with posters, pamphlets, pencils, magnets and imprinted items, all related to the biggest part of the project-the production of a don't smoke video.

The costume of Rocky Bluewinkle, mascot for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, was rented. The group crafted a script, lined up a videographer someone had used at her wedding and recruited children- their own and those of friends-to star.

Filming took place in October in Banning Park in Wilmington, Del., with the cooperation of New Castle County Parks and Recreation Department.

The video shows four of the women-Halpern; Carol Evans, Delaware '98M; Julie Ferguson, Delaware '97M; and Nancy Mulford, Delaware '00M-sitting around a picnic table. As one pulls a pack of cigarettes from her purse in a baby carriage and starts to share them around the table, Rocky Bluewinkle bounds out from among the trees, snatches the cigarettes and smashes them.

In a second scene, Rocky shows up again snatching cigarettes from a group of children who are contemplating their first smoke.

In the end, the children make a pact with Rocky to "Be cool, don't smoke!"

Each nursing student took a copy of the video and accompanying posters, pamphlets and other items to local schools during Stop Smoking Week.

"The video is short and sweet, but it gets the point across," Halpern says. "It was a joint effort. We couldn't have done it without each other. Everyone worked well together, even though it was stressful. There were lots of deadlines to meet, but no one ever got out of sync. When we disagreed, we disagreed appropriately. With Dr. Birney's support, it worked out well.

"And," she adds, "it's much more beneficial to the community than a student-written paper!"

Other students involved in the project were Susan May, Delaware '92, '00M; Nermin Safak-Teczan, Delaware '98M; Denise Lyons, Delaware '92, '00M; and Mary Gant, Delaware '00M.

Sponsors included First State Orthopedic, Delaware DOC, Bryan J. Walsh, DO, Halpern Eye Associates, Hoechst Marion Roussel Inc. and Harold De Haven, DDS.

-Beth Thomas