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Where There's Smoke, There's Biofeedback

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In the heart of tobacco country, it's not easy to get students to quit smoking.

But school officials in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., are doing their best, using the science--as well as the art--of friendly persuasion. When students in the district repeatedly are caught sneaking a cigarette in school, officials require them to hook up to biofeedback equipment to see the effects of smoking on their own bodies.

The biofeedback technique is part of an extensive tobacco-education4program established by school officials this fall in an effort to get cigarettes off school campuses, according to Robert Hanes, deputy superintendent of schools.

Until this year, students 16 or older who had their parents' permission were allowed to smoke before and after school, between classes, and during lunch in designated areas. Current 11th- and 12th-grade students may continue to smoke at school, but by 1988 all high schools in the district should be smoke-free, Mr. Hanes said.

School officials had to start by getting teachers to quit smoking in public places on campus and by convincing coaches to chew only gum on the playing field. The second step was the ban on smoking at school. ''Students were never allowed to smoke at junior high, but it was always a problem," Mr. Hanes said.

Health education has been increased for all students, and smokers get special attention. "Junior-high students who are caught smoking will be required to have a conference with parents and school officials where we will discuss the hazards of smoking," said Mr. Hanes. Senior-high students will be required to stay after class to study units prepared by health officials on the adverse effects of tobacco.

Students who repeatedly are caught smoking are suspended for three days. During the suspension, they are required to attend sessions of counseling, discussion with their parents, and biofeedback to see the effects of smoking firsthand.

A student can be expelled for smoking at school again after the three-day program. So far, Mr. Hanes said, only 100 of the district's 15,000 high-school students have been suspended and no one has been expelled.

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