by Steve Peterson
Akron-Westfield High School student Jaclyn Smith donned a black outfit and went from classroom to classroom as part of the Westerners’ “Red Ribbon Week” activities.
Smith read a statistic about drugs at each of the eight classrooms she visited on Oct. 26. At each class she announced which student could not talk or be talked to for the remainder of the day — because they were role playing/ a make-believe “death statistic.”
The facts that she recited to the classes were:
• The first statistic: “Drunk driving related deaths are so often that in the United States each day, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 40 minutes. As I read this to you, the number of deaths caused by drunk driving has already increased.” Hannah Koele was the first “death statistic” and could not communicate with the living or be communicated with all that school day.
• The second statistic: “the younger you are when you start drinking, the greater your chance of becoming addicted to alcohol at some point in your life. More than four in 10 people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become alcoholics. According to 2007 data, heavy alcohol consumption and chronic Hepatitis C have been the most common causes of cirrhosis in the U.S. Cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death by disease, accounting for 27,000 deaths each year,” said Smith. JD Myers was the second “death statistic” due to alcoholism.
• The third statistic: “Meth can kill you by causing (body) overheating, convulsions and coma. Meth users may have cracked or deteriorating teeth that must be extracted. Some reports have also speculated that the acidic nature of the drug is a contributing factor. Meth can damage blood vessels in the brain leading to strokes, which can produce irreversible damage. Strokes killed 137,119 people in 2006. It is the third largest cause of death, ranking behind “diseases of the heart” and all forms of cancer,” said Smith. Jesse Jolin was the third “death statistic,” killed by abusing meth.
• The fourth statistic: “smoking can kill you. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. More than 440,000 Americans die from tobacco-related causes each year, most of whom began using tobacco before the age of 18; 140,000 of these people die from lung cancer alone,” said Smith. Devon Myers was the fourth “death statistic,” killed by abusing tobacco.
• The fifth statistic: “Smoking puts your friends and family at risk. Each year about 3,000 non-smokers die of lung cancer from second-hand smoke. In 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are currently available, lung cancer accounted for more deaths than breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined,” said Smith. Evan Mitchell was the fifth “death statistic,” killed by second-hand smoke.
• The sixth statistic: “marijuana smoke deposits four times more tar cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke does. More people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. This is true for both men and women,” said Smith. Tabitha Banks was the sixth “death statistic,” killed by abusing marijuana.
• The seventh statistic: “In the United States, roughly 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported each year, and approximately once every week, someone dies from this preventable condition,” said Smith. Spencer Frankl was the seventh “death statistic,” killed by alcohol poisoning.
• The eighth statistic: “unintentional fatal drug overdoses nearly doubled from 1999 to 2004 and were the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States in 2004, behind only automobile crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Deaths from accidental overdoses increased to 19,838 in 2004, from 11,155 in 1999, according to the CDC report, which was based on death certificate information. Researchers believe the increasing misuse of prescription drugs by those ages 15 to 24 accounts for the majority of the statistic,” said Smith. Sam Johnson was the final “death statistic,” killed by drug overdose.