06 July 2005

Classical Conditioning?

Here's a recent article about my nephew Tyler. I'm very proud of the boy...


Pavlovian Pack
Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Chelsea Fuller demonstrates the Nicoteen device. The students from Virginia Middle School kept the packs all weekend and had to respond to the directions coming from the pack. Here she is using a wrist band to respond. 
BY EARL NEIKIRK (Bristol Herald Courier)

BRISTOL, Va. – Tyler Meadows had a hard time trying to build a skateboard ramp last weekend.

The Virginia Middle School seventh-grader didn’t have a technical or mechanical problem with the ramp’s construction. He was constantly interrupted by a little pack.

"Let’s smoke," a recorded voice prompted him. And then again a few minutes later, "Time to light up." That continued up to 25 times for each "cigarette."

Tyler was one of about 110 seventh-grade students who carried a NICoteen pack, a smoking simulator that demonstrates how much time an addicted smoker spends on the habit each day.

"All we got was a big pile of wood," he said of the ramp. "It made me mad because (the pack) kept going off. Smoking takes a whole lot of time, and it makes you quit whatever you’re doing."

Taking home the packs for the weekend rounded out a six-day anti-smoking program taught by Bristol Youth Services.

The packs prompted students to "smoke" at varying intervals. Instead of taking puffs, students had to touch wristband sensors to the pack twice and repeat phrases up to 25 times such as "shortens life," "causes cancer" and "smoking stinks" into a speaker for each cigarette.

After every phrase, students said the voice repeated facts about smoking, such as "Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States," and "A one-pack-a-day habit will cost $1,460 a year."

Students had to repeat phrases for about as long as it takes to smoke a cigarette. If they ignored the prompts, the simulator became more persistent and irritating, simulating the addictive nature of nicotine.

"I almost threw mine out the window," said Alyssa Henderson, who "smoked" 73 percent of a possible 46 cigarettes. "It makes me think (smoking) controls you. If an addiction is really that bad, then I don’t want to be addicted."

While she tried to fish with her family, the simulator kept interrupting her, Alyssa said. By the end of the weekend, her family was just as bothered by the pack as she was, she said.

Before the weekend simulation, students learned about some of the consequences of smoking, including its cost and its effect on their bodies.

"The whole purpose of the program is to show how you’re not in control," said Becky Sensky, a program assistant with Bristol Youth Services, which received a grant for the program from the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation. "It’s addictive."

In its third year, the program has affected student attitudes and beliefs about smoking, Sensky said. Surveys done before and after the program demonstrate those changes, she said. The program’s hands-on activities, such as the simulator, especially help reinforce its lessons, she said.

Tyler, who "smoked" 26 "cigarettes" during the weekend, tried to quiet his simulator by wrapping it in tissue, stuffing it in his pocket and putting tape over its speaker. It didn’t work, he said.

"It’s annoying," he said.

On Tuesday, the students received a "death clock value," which tallied the estimated life span lost with each cigarette smoked, about 11 minutes each time. In addition, students learned what their total smoking expense for the weekend would have been, along with the percentage of cigarettes they smoked.

Chelsea Fuller "lost" seven hours and 53 minutes of her life by "smoking" 43 cigarettes. Those facts, combined with the nuisance of the simulator, helped strengthen her resolve not to smoke, she said.

"There is a lot of peer pressure," she said. "A lot of people do it. Smoking can cause a lot of problems to your health. It taught me a lot. It taught me not to smoke."

dcourrege@bristolnews.com | (276) 645-2549

This story can be found at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=TRI/MGArticle/TRI_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031782114228


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