From the First to the Last Ash: The History, Economics & Hazards of Tobacco is a comprehensive tobacco education curriculum which integrates speaking, reading, writing, and critical thinking skills and focuses on cigarette smoking. It was funded in 1993 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health grant to The Cambridge Tobacco Education Program, Cambridge Department of Human Service Programs.
From the First to the Last Ash was written for native and non-native English speaking, adult populations reading at grade levels 6 through 12. It is comprised of six self-contained units. Individual units can be used in focus groups, adult and community education classes, and workshops or the whole sequence can be taught as an eight-week course. Each unit contains reading, writing, and speaking activities designed to teach content as well as to build written and verbal communication skills. The reading skills taught are as follows: locating important facts/details, distinguishing facts from opinons, finding the main idea of one or more paragraphs, learning new vocabulary through context clues, and drawing conclusions. There is a separate teachers' guide complete with step by step lesson plans for each unit.
The development of this curriculum dates back to February 1994 when over one hundred students at the Community Learning Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts were given a survey to assess their knowledge and interest in tobacco-related subjects. They were enrolled in English-as-a-second language, Adult Basic Education, and PreGED classes. The results of the survey were used to design a curriculum to meet students' needs and interests.
From the First to the Last Ash was written with three main objectives in mind. One was to increase the students' understanding and awareness of the historical role of the tobacco industry in the U.S. economy and the health dangers of smoking to smokers and nonsmokers. Another was for students to develop strategies to protect themselves and others from cigarette smoke. The third objective was to encourage smokers to quit and to assist nonsmokers in their efforts to help family members and friends to quit.
From the First to the Last Ash was piloted from August 1994 to April 1995 with over 200 adult education students at the Community Learning Center. The students come from a diversity of age and ethnic/linguistic groups. Among the groups represented were 18-55 year olds from Haiti, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Venezuela, Panama, Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, the United States, Portugal, Cape Verde Islands, Lebanon, Philippines, China, and Brazil. From the United States, there were African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and white participants. All students were low-income whether employed or on public assistance.
At the end of the pilot, all students evaluated the curriculum. The course was rated as excellent by 99% of the participants. They felt that they had learned valuable knowledge and had also improved their reading, writing, thinking, and speaking skills. New materials were generated by the students through the various activities at the end of each unit. Several parents who smoke learned about ways to protect their children from second hand cigarette smoke. One woman in the early stages of pregnancy, who had been smoking for 15 years, quit smoking at the end of the course. Other students thought that they could now educate their children about the dangers of smoking and be supportive and influential in helping family members and close friends quit smoking.
Final revisions were made to the curriculum in the fall of 1995 through the input of five, health education, community outreach workers from the Cambridge Tobacco Education Program and Cambridge United For Smoking Prevention.
From the First to the Last Ash is currently being used by many tobacco education programs throughout the United States. Program personnel are using it as a resource to educate themselves and their staffs and to assist their target populations with tobacco education and cessation.