taraTara Budarick is a teacher at Warriappendi School in Adelaide; she is Ngarrindjeri Woman who grew up on Kangaroo Island in SA.

Spending time with Tara at school, you can see the students want to get involved and be active when Tara’s around. She’s a keen sportsperson and great role model for the young Aboriginal students at Warriappendi. Tara shares her experiences of being around smokes, and her dreams of helping others and always living an active and healthy life.

What was your experience of smoking as a young person?

I have never smoked. I never wanted to smoke. I never will smoke.

I was exposed to smoking from conception as my mother smoked from the time I was conceived and continues to smoke to this day. From my youngest memories I despised cigarettes. I was bewildered how my mother could spend so much time and money on them. Even from an early age I could see the negative health effects it had on her and my mother knew that the smoking was doing her damage. She tried multiple times to quit. But it’s a real challenge to give up once you’ve started.
I’ve always tried my best and worked hard to compete at the highest possible level and this meant staying well away from smokes!

When I was at school we did the usual health education on the effects of smoking. My peers all did this learning as well, but many of them started to take up smoking anyway. This seemed like such a stupid thing to do. We all knew about the addictive nature of cigarettes – how much they cost, their potential to affect our health, cause cancer and contribute to an early death – yet people were willingly taking up this habit??? This trend continues today and as many health promotion items highlight it is not just about knowing the dangers of smoking, but in having the confidence to be strong, not give in to peer pressure, and stay focused on what really matters in life.

In your experience, what are the main reasons young people take up smoking?

Young people are surrounded with information as to why smoking is bad for them, yet they continue to smoke due to peer pressure and the perception that smoking will make them cool. It doesn’t.

How do you think smoking would have affected your dreams?

I have always been an active person and since I was a young child I have been involved in sports, and any activities that were about getting out and about and living an active lifestyle – e.g. fishing, bike riding, camping, walking, trampolining, netball. I’ve always tried my best and worked hard to compete at the highest possible level and this meant staying well away from smokes!

I most certainly wouldn’t have been as successful in my sports. There is no way that I could have made it to the state squad for netball or be playing A grade water polo if I smoked. I know a lot of people who enjoy playing sports and I cannot think of anyone who has been a smoker and has made it to a high level in their field.

I have always wanted a family and I know that smoking would not go well with this. It is especially important to not smoke when you are pregnant. I guess even the relationship with my husband may not have eventuated if I was a smoker when we got together. I know that many people are not attracted to other people who smoke.

How do you relax and stay focused without smokes?

It is not just about knowing the dangers of smoking, but in having the confidence to be strong, not give in to peer pressure, and stay focused on what really matters in life. Smoking was never an option. If there was an issue that was causing me stress then I dealt with it. I didn’t turn to smokes to help me relax.

I relax and stay focused by spending time with family and friends, exercising, gardening, cooking or playing with my pets.

I am a very goal oriented person. Besides doing well in sport I have always worked hard with my study. I knew this was really important so that I could get a job that I really enjoyed doing.

Who or what influenced you to achieve your goal to become a teacher?

I think that my biggest influences when I was young were my own teachers. If you get a teacher who really makes an impact on your education then you will remember them for the rest of your life.

I’m sure that everyone can think of a teacher that supported them with their learning in a way that really made a difference; someone who spent time explaining those math problems that you never really understood; someone who recognized and stepped in when you were being bullied; someone who used humor and helped you feel comfortable in their classroom; someone who spoke to you and treated you like an equal and you knew your opinion mattered; or someone who had clear expectations and always made sure their class was a fair and equitable place to be.

Whatever the reason we all have at least one teacher who has made a difference to our lives.

How have you seen smoking affect the young people you work with, and what differences do you notice in class or on the sports field?

I see it every day when our students are playing around on the basketball court or working in the gym. You can tell just by watching that smoking has affected their health. A lot of the time they comment themselves on how their fitness has really gone down since they started smoking and that they can’t do things as well as they used to.

In the classroom, students who smoke find it harder to concentrate for longer periods of time because their bodies start craving a nicotine fix. They don’t get as much work done as they should because they start to get off task, they might begin planning how they can take a smoke break and some wag lessons so that they can have a smoke.

I see a lot of young people spending quite a bit of time and effort trying to get cigarettes as they can’t buy their own due to age and not having the cash. Sometimes they ask others, or they search around for unfinished cigarettes. I find this really sad.

What do young people say about smoking?

When we have discussions in class a lot of the older students talk about how much they want to quit and that they wish they had never started smoking in the first place. At this stage they have recognized the negative effects smoking has on their health and lives but they find it difficult to kick the habit.

The smokers struggle to come up with reasons as to why they gave in and started smoking, and the non-smokers can’t believe that their peers take up smoking after all that we learn about it.

In your experience, what do you think are the most effective ways to support young people to make good choices about smoking?

I think positive role models can make a big difference.

Also, messages from their peers who took up smoking who have been able to see the negative effects it has had on them, and regret taking it up in the first place.

Another important tool is health promotion materials that show gory details of the effects of smokes, as well as messages that explain how smoking affects families, and especially young children.

Have you got a story to tell? Send us an email tacklingsmoking@nunku.org.au