Smoke Detectors! Deconstructing Tobacco Use in Media

Tobacco-related illness is a leading cause of death in the United States, and according to the Centers for Disease Control (Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students—United States, 2000-2009) more than 80% of established adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18. Additional studies indicate that genetic factors may play a role in whether young smokers become addicted daily users who are unable to quit as adults (, March 2013). The data continues to stack up against teen smoking yet we still see tobacco use portrayed in movies and cable television shows, and marketed through product placements and point of sale advertisements. Although tobacco is no longer advertised on network television, it is prevalent in media and easily obtained by teens. 

Education can play a significant part in ensuring that children have tools of discernment at the ready as they navigate the everyday media torrent that they experience.  These “tools of discernment” must be taught and practiced over time, and that is the purpose of this curriculum, Smoke Detectors!

By learning a process of inquiry based on CML’s Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions for media literacy, children are prepared to think critically about any media message that they encounter.  Smoke Detectors! provides them with the tools they need to understand their relationship with media and to make their choices from a more informed perspective.

Smoke Detectors! is designed as a comprehensive program to reach communities and parents, local organizations, churches and schools.  Although providing educational training and curricula is a key component of the program, the concept behind Smoke Detectors! goes further: to engage citizens and spur individual action.  It is a concept that only now is being recognized as an urgent priority for the American people, as our society realizes that media are not “passive or objective” relayers of information, and that technology is now providing a voice for all Americans – a voice that, through the internet and other channels, can be heard globally. 

CML developed and launched its first comprehensive community and school program, Beyond Blame: Challenging Violence in the Media, in 1994.  As media and technology have evolved, so has CML’s approach.  CML’s current curriculum reflects the needs of our youth today in addressing media through a myriad of channels – from social networking to TV to podcasts and music. Regardless of the medium, it’s critical thinking that counts!

Download Educator Guide.  CML no longer offers the DVD of media clips. Educators are advised to collect media clips  appropriate for classroom use for their grade level. 

Download Student Book