Tobacco is the only source of nicotine, an addictive agent that causes people to keep smoking and crave cigarettes. Tobacco smoke, in addition to nicotine, contains over 4,000 different gases, some of which can be harmful to the body (such as tar and carbon monoxide). Despite the obvious health complications associated with cigarettes, 47 million Americans still smoke. Students may be aware of the common health problems associated with smoking but may not necessarily understand the full extent of damage from smoking.
The sponge project can be used to determine the effects of cigarette chemicals and gases on the lungs. Students require two light-coloured sponges to represent human lungs, two jars, two sheets of greaseproof paper and elastic bands. Place a sponge into each jar and tightly secure the greaseproof paper over them with the elastic bands. Cut a small hole in the greaseproof paper, about 1 inch bigger than a cigarette. Light a cigarette for the students and place it through the hole in the greaseproof paper. Ensure the filter tip of the cigarette is not inside the jar. Wait until the cigarette has burnt out completely. Remove the cigarette for your students, along with the greaseproof paper. Allow students to examine the sponge, which should become discoloured from cigarette smoke. This project should be performed outside and students must be supervised at all stages.
The project can be used to compare different cigarette types and brands, which will have the nicotine and monoxide content listed on the side of each packet. Students can compare the effects of different cigarette brands or types (such as purchased filter cigarettes and rolled cigarettes) on the sponge.
Lima Bean Experiment
Provide students with Lima beans, two plastic cups half-filled with water and tobacco products. Show students studies on smoking when pregnant and the studied side effects before performing the experiment. Explain to students that the Lima beans in the plastic cups represent embryos and they will be studying the effects of tobacco on unborn children. Fill one plastic cup with tobacco and mix well until the water becomes discoloured. Leave the second cup filled with water only. Label the cup with the water and tobacco mix as "smoker" and the cup with water only as "non-smoker." Place Lima beans in both cups and allow students to take these home, recording the changes to both beans over the course of one or two weeks.
Place two small slices of bread into two separate plastic jars and cut a hole in the lid of each jar. Insert an air bed pump tube into each jar and pump normal air into one jar and smoke residue into another over the course of 14 days. Ask students to consider what might happen to the bread in each jar over the week and record changes to the bread, in groups. At the end of 14 days, mould from the jar pumped with cigarette smoke will have grown faster than the other bread sample. Students will then compare what they thought would happen at the beginning of the project with what actually happened.
Smoker or Non-Smoker
Find five willing participants for a short classroom experiment in which three will be smokers and two will be non-smokers. The participants will be invited into the classroom and students will not be informed who are smokers or non-smokers. Give each participant a name tag and split the class into groups of four. In groups, the students will use their sense of smell to guess which participants are smokers or non-smokers. Once decided, students will write down the name of the smokers and try to give a reason why they believe those participants are smokers.