Following the "People Helping People Radiothon" with Central Plains Cancer Services, we caught up with Educator Karen Faurschou. She travels around to schools displaying actual lungs from a pig, noting that they're quite comparable to human lungs in size and structure, and are used  to demonstrate what happens when people smoke.

"I have the lungs; the healthy and unhealthy lungs," says Faurschou. "It is part of our smoking/vaping education program that we put on. The lungs are kind of like the main event of the education session. Students are amazed, horrified; all of the above. We save it, typically, to the end of the presentation. We have these lungs and the number one question is, are they real? Yes, they are."

She notes they're often asked how did they get the lungs of a pig to represent what a lung looks like if a person has smoked cigarettes.

"We did not make a pig smoke. There was no cruelty to animals. These are medical lungs. They are kept in a preservative and are an example of what lungs would look like if a person smoked one package a day for 10 years. There is a hard area in the unhealthy lungs. We direct the students hands to that area, and we let them know that it could be cancer in there. There must be quite a bit more testing, and then, obviously if it is cancer, there would have to be treatment, if the lung was that of a person."

She notes it's a very hands-on presentation, that resonates quite significantly with the students.

"We definitely are talking about vaping. The problem with vaping is that it has not been out as long as smoking. It took a long time for us to realize the serious consequences of smoking. Vaping initially came out to help people quit smoking. What we tell everyone is to make sure that they know that there are better ways to quit smoking other than vaping. There are lots of smoking cessation products and there are actually grants that you can access because smoking cessation products are quite expensive."

Faurschou explains they want students to learn that vaping is not safe and is highly addictive, depending on the vape juice that they're using; if it has nicotine in it or not.

"There is a difference you can see when you inflate these lungs," continues Faurschou. "When we do the demonstration, the students are able to see that the healthy lungs have a much bigger inflation rate, so better air expansion."

As Faurschou used a pump to literally pump the lungs with air, you could see the healthy lungs inflate more easily and larger than the condition of lungs that result from smoking for ten years.

"We tell students they only get one set of lungs, so they really have to look after them. But there's definitely a significant difference in the expansion. That's just because if a person continues to smoke, they aren't able to breathe adequately. Some kids are getting it, but others aren't. Our presentation is random. We show them jars of sputumn. We show them jars of tar. We talk about addiction. We talk about the financial aspect of smoking."

She adds they also explain that a person who smokes is going to age much worse with wrinkles and bad teeth that remain darkly stained later in life. Faurschou has a model of a jaw showing teeth stained with tar, noting you can brush and brush and brush those teeth, and never see them clean.

"It's random and, hopefully, one part of the presentation is going to resonate with students. I really like talking in particular to high school students. I want to know why they are smoking or why they are vaping, and let them know that there are healthier alternatives. I like talking to younger students who are concerned, because they have grandparents and great-grandparents -- everyone in the family -- who smokes. We just really want to reinforce that, just because everyone in the family smokes, does not mean they have to. They can break the chain and break the cycle. It is a horrendous addiction to beat and quite honestly, I don't know any smokers or vapers that would prefer to be smoking rather than not smoking. And they sure don't want their children smoking or vaping."

She adds any school in our area that asks them to do a presentation, can call the office, and invite them. 

"We'll come to your school. We do it grade-appropriate. The content is the same, but we do have different conversations, obviously, between Kindergarten and Grade 12."

Faurschou adds many sports players have taken up chewing tobacco, and notes there are small asbestos fibres in the substance. These fibres make micro-lacerations in the gums, and the tar and nicotine in the tobacco enters the body through these small cuts and get into your system, just as smoking puts them there.

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