For the Classroom: Tobacco and Hands-on Science

Objective: Educate students on a few of the physical dangers of smoking

Time: 30 minutes

Supplies for each student or group:

  • 2 large cotton balls
  • small plastic bottle
  • cigarette
  • modeling clay

Hands-on science. (At the lower elementary grades, teachers should perform this demonstration.)

1.       Place a large cotton ball inside the small plastic bottle.

2.       Seal the bottle with a chunk of modeling clay.

3.       Poke the filter end of a cigarette through the clay so that it’s inside the bottle.

4.       Light the other end of the cigarette — the end that’s sticking out of the bottle.

5.       Slowly pump or squeeze the plastic bottle 6-10 times to simulate a person puffing on the cigarette. Then remove the cigarette from the clay. Crush out the lit end.

6.       Invite students to take a close look at the cotton ball and compare to an unused cotton ball.   


Discussion: Ask students engaging questions such as:

  • What does this demonstration show us about smoking? 
  • How does what we see on the cotton ball tell you about what smoking a cigarette may do to our lungs?
  • How do you think the lungs look on a person that smokes a pack of cigarettes a day?  Over a year span?  20 year span?  

Adapted from

Additional Great American Smokeout information and teacher activities: