Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
Every day thousands of children start smoking. For some it's just an adolescent experiment, but for many it's the start of a lifelong addiction. But a new program is hoping to turn that around.
The innovative program tries to stop middle school children from getting hooked by showing them what it's really like to have a smoking addiction.
Some sixth graders are about to get a very unusual homework assignment. It involves taking home a device called "The Pack."
It looks like a regular pack of cigarettes. But instead of nicotine it has an electronic program that helps kids understand what it's like to be hooked.
"Let's go have a smoke."
At regular intervals the pack tells the user they need to smoke.
"That's it. Smoke now."
Over the course of a weekend, that means dozens of interruptions every day.
"You must need a cigarette. I do."
To stop each interuption, the user has to use one of seven anti-smoking phrases designed to drive home the health dangers.
The pack uses voice recognition software, so the user cannot simply ignore it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved the program as a way of educating the more than 6,000 teens and pre-teens who try cigarettes every day.
And because smoking has financial as well as health costs, the pack lets the user know: "You have spent one dollar and 20 cents on smoking."
But the pack's strength is its relentless driving home of what it's like to be addicted.
"Say your nic line, lose control."
The pack is still too new to have any formal studies done on how effective it is. But sixth graders like Stephanie Coyle say it's helped them make up their mind about smoking.
"It drives you crazy," she says. "I do not want to do it."
It's estimated that 90 percent of all long-term smokers pick up the habit in their teens. If this new device could help change that, it will be money and time well spent.