It's one thing to tell kids it's not cool to smoke.
But on Tuesday, seventh-graders at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics upped the ante before a wide-eyed class of fifth-graders.
They brought grisly evidence in the form of cancerous body parts. They challenged students to stand up to peer pressure, and turned that matter of coolness on its head. As teachers, they were relentless.
Jessica Pinto kicked off the lesson with a display of smoking advertisements.
"The smoking ads try to make people look glamorous and cool," she said, displaying ads of Hollywood types lighting up.
They're misleading, said classmate Taylor Hopper. "You cough a lot and you smell. Your breath smells really bad."
Then it was time for the big guns. Danny Cervino held up a half-filled jar of black gunk.
"In one pack of cigarettes is this much tar," he said.
Alex Meyer, meanwhile, had pulled on a pair of latex gloves and was hoisting what looked like a pair of pot roasts.
"They're both pig lungs," he said, as the fifth-graders squirmed. "They're real. This lung is nice and pink, like it's supposed to be."
The other one was gray and misshapen, with evidence of what Alex said was concentrated exposure to secondhand smoke.
He displayed a model of a smoker's decayed teeth and gums, and gave a quick mini-lesson on how lungs cease functioning when they're burdened with tar and other pollutants.
"When it doesn't inflate, you get tired faster," he said. "When it gets filled with tar, it gets rock hard and it doesn't fill with air."
Health teacher Beth Reckner stood near the back, ready to jump in with facts or materials from the Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition if her students faltered. They didn't.
Alex Franklin talked about addiction, how the chemicals in cigarettes make it hard to stop.
They all had ideas for countering the toughest problem of all, peer pressure.
"How many of you have seen teenagers smoking?" asked Kae Elliott, as her audience's hands shot up. "Do you think they look glamorous at all? It's the opposite of glamorous."
If friends insist you should smoke, they might not really be friends, suggested Danny Cervino. "If they don't listen, just walk away when they smoke," he added.
But it was the visual demonstration that stuck in one fifth-grader's mind.
"Did you say those are real lungs?" he asked.
Tom Marshall can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1431.