Ella Perry, standing, acts out a skit she was rehearsing with fellow athletes at Edward Little High School in Auburn Tuesday during a new two-hour class, “Consider This,” about making good decisions when it comes to tobacco, drugs, alcohol. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Passing around a pretend electronic cigarette, high school girls in class Tuesday acted out a skit in which they urged friends to smoke behind the teacher’s back.

“It’s cool, right!” said Anna LeBlanc, and she and Becca Raby shared the JUUL smokeless cigarette with Olivia Roth and Miranda Chadbourne.

While the teacher (played by Megan Steele) had her back turned and was writing on the board, the four students laughed and giggled as they smoked.

Their smiles disappeared when student Jaylyn Metivier snitched.

“Mrs. Steele, they are JUULing in class!” Metivier said.

The teacher turned around, grabbed the students and said, “Come with me!”

The skit was part of a new course required this year of all 250 Edward Little High School student athletes before school begins Aug. 29, according to Athletic Director Todd Sampson. Other students will take the course this year.

With a rise of students using electronic cigarettes at Edward Little and across the country, Sampson said student athletes face punishment for using.

“But we weren’t doing enough to educate our kids,” he said.

The new, two-hour “Consider This” course gives students a better understanding of what happens to their bodies, and their lives, when they use.

On Tuesday, field hockey players were in a class led by Emily Dooling-Hamilton and Corrie Brown of Healthy Androscoggin.

After students performed skits, they were asked why they used a JUUL in class,  why other students ate “special cookies” with marijuana in the cafeteria or why they smoked in the girls room. Students answered it made them feel cool, and they wanted to impress their friends.

They were asked if any of it was worth it?

No, students said, adding they got in trouble, faced suspensions, got lower grades and missed games.

“And the person who took a second (marijuana) cookie will probably end up in the ER,” Brown said.

In class, students were asked to list the good things about using tobacco, alcohol and drugs. They answered that they can make you look cool, some can be helpful for medical purposes and they can be fun and maybe provide an escape.

Dooling-Hamilton asked them to list good things about not using.

“You don’t get all messed up,” one student said.

Edward Little field hockey player Rebecca Raby writes responses from fellow teammates at the Auburn school Tuesday during a new, two-hour class, “Consider This” about making good decisions on tobacco, drugs and alcohol. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Others said not using would help them stay healthy, remove addiction risks, reduce the likelihood of getting into trouble and allow them to play sports. And not driving under the influence would avoid injuries, deaths and legal troubles.

“You ain’t going to get locked up,” one student said.

When reviewing their list of pros and cons, Brown said there are good things about using, “otherwise people wouldn’t use substances. But there’s a lot more negatives.”

Dooling-Hamilton offered tips on how to say no, which is not always easy. When they want to say no, use the right body language. Stand up straight. Make eye contact. Be clear and firm. Don’t make excuses. If necessary, walk away.

If they are with a friend who has used and passed out, “never leave someone alone to sleep it off. Alcohol is a depressant. It can slow our heart rate and breathing down,” she said. It can be deadly.

“Call 911,” Dooling-Hamilton said, even if it means getting into trouble. “Your friend’s life is worth more than any trouble you could get in.”

The “Consider This” course does not tell students to just say no, it teaches them how to make a decision and gives them information about tobacco, drugs and alcohol, Brown said. Because brains are still developing into a person’s mid-20s, substance use is more harmful to teens than adults, she said.

Students said what they learned was eyeopening.

In past years when athletes signed contracts pledging to not use alcohol, tobacco and drugs, “it was just something you signed,” Metivier said.

They’ll take it more seriously after learning what using can do to them and those around them. For example, if their team’s goalie gets caught using and is benched, “we’re out of a goalie,” said LeBlanc, who was involved in planning the “Consider This” course.

Students added they did not realize how much nicotine is in electronic cigarettes. LeBlanc said she was surprised to learn that in one electronic cigarette pod, “there’s a whole pack of cigarettes.”

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