Topic 4 Refusal assertiveness

Vital to the effectiveness of prevention in the school environment is the correct, adequate and scientifically documented information on the consequences of the use of substances, improving the development of values and training in assertive behaviour and resistance against the use of addictive substances (Antidrug Council of Cyprus, 2020). 

Role-playing (early adolescents)


Provide the opportunity for students to brainstorm and practice resistance skills to peer pressure


Whiteboard, Markers, Computer, Internet Access, and a Projector 


Brainstorm (5 minutes)

Discuss with the students about examples of people or facts that influence their opinions about e-cigarettes/vape pens. Ask for a few volunteers to share examples that came to mind and fill them in the brainstorm drawing you have on the whiteboard.

Role Play (10-20 minutes)

This activity can be done in pairs or small groups. The group option will probably take more time but can be very engaging and impactful.

  • Small Group Option:In this option, split the class into small groups of three. Each group will create and act out a real-life scenario of a young person being pressured to smoke. Then, the rest of the class will brainstorm ways for the group to resolve the situation and the group will act out the audience’s suggestions. 
  • Pair Option: This option will allow students to take turns role-playing a young person resisting pressure to use an e-cigarette/vape. If time allows, a couple of pairs should act out the scenario in front of the class. 


If time allows, ask for volunteers to act out one of their scenarios for the group. Thank the students for their participation and acknowledge the importance of body language and tone of voice. Saying no isn’t just what we say, but how we say it!

Optional Group Project for creative use of technology:

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students. In pairs or small groups, students can film their resistance performances.
  2. Each group should select one person in the group to be the director, who will work to keep them on track. The other members can choose to be actors, the videographer, and/or the editor.
  3. Each group will role play and record a situation where one student is being pressured to use e-cigarettes/vape pens.
  4. The students should demonstrate creative ways to say no. Give the students ten minutes to decide the script/scenario and fifteen minutes to record the videos using a phone or camera.
  5. Walk around the room, helping groups if needed. Give a warning signal (i.e., “you have two more minutes”) and then bring the groups back together.
  6. The following day each director should introduce the group and then play their video. Be sure to lead applause after each group.


Develop some of the below cases into scenarios for role-playing. Think about what you want to achieve with the scenario, and which roles you could suggest to students.

Case 1: I was offered tobacco to reduce my stress while studying.

Case 2: I am thinking of starting smoking to lose weight before the graduation ceremony.

Case 3: I was advised instead of quitting smoking to change to e-cigarettes as they are not harmful. 

Case 4: I do not want to smoke, but I feel that my friends will judge me.

The refusal wheel (early adolescents)


To start conversation between students and help brainstorm various ways to refuse being offered a tobacco product.


Pieces of paper, Pencils, Whiteboard


  1. Ask students to draw a wheel with 8 pie pieces, on a piece of paper.
  2. Provide two scenarios to students. For example:
    • “You are at a party and a close friend offers you a cigarette”.
    • “You are at the mall with your friends and two friends insist you try e-cigarettes”.
  1. Allow students 5 minutes to fill out the left half of the wheel with strategies/ways to “say no” or refuse any tobacco product for one situation and the right half for the other.
  2. Students work in pairs. They discuss their answers and comment on the common refusal strategies or differences relevant to the situation.
  3. The teacher draws the same wheel on the whiteboard (class wheel) and ask each student to share one or two of the refusal skills they wrote down with the entire class – a collection of brainstorming ideas.

Some tips:

  • When looking at the answers/responses, make sure none of these is making fun of or putting down people.
  • Encourage students to use the class wheel as a guide to add some strategies around their wheel.
  1. Discussion:
  • What strategies could you see yourself using in each situation? Why?
  • Are there any strategies you do not see yourself using? Why?
Role-playing (late adolescents)


  • Formulate ways to say no in three different situations, in which the same tobacco product is being offered.
  • Witness the potential and realistic dialogue that may take place in these different situations.
  • Discuss the many ways to refuse these products, based on how the scenes are formed by student groups.


Whiteboard, Markers, Computer, Internet Access, and a Projector 


  1. Divide the class into small groups and let the class know they will have to create a performance. Provide each group with clear instructions for the activity.
  2. Give each group at least one scene card with a detailed description of the setting (groups can have the same card). In each case, there is one student that is proposed to try e-cigarettes/smoke shisha but (s)he does not wish to do it:
    • Going to the beach with your friends
    • House party, in which you know half of the people
    • Hanging out at the mall with new friends
  1. The groups define 4-5 roles (according to the number of the group) that relate to the people that could attend the scene. They should think a short description of the character and an objective they will have while acting, for instance, one role can be a student that follows the rules and tries to convince that smoking is not ok, another one can be a student that sees smoking as a cool thing to do and tries to convince the student to try hookah, another student can be a student that defends that doing hookah once is not a big deal, etc.
  2. You can help groups that have difficulty in defining roles with these roles for acting, from which they can choose some.
  3. Give groups 15-20 minutes to prepare their 2-4 minute creative performances, illustrating the different responses based on their assigned setting.
  4. Groups present in front of the class.
  5. Discussion:
    • From the performances shown, what are some other roles that you would expect to see based on each environment? What they could say and how could you reply?
    • You come home from a party and your parent asks, “Was there [cigarettes, e-cigarettes/vape & hookah, smokeless, or any other nicotine products] at the party?” How would you answer?