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Event promotes quitting smoking

Nov. 17, 2005

by KRISTEN PILCHER, reporter

For the 29th Great American Smokeout, American Cancer Society representatives are asking the nation's tobacco users to kick the habit -- at least for today.

Held on the third Thursday of November, the smokeout is a day for tobacco users to try to stop using cigarettes.

"One of the reasons we sponsor the smokeout is so smokers can prove to themselves they can live one day without cigarettes," said Robin Dixon, health initiatives director for the American Cancer Society's Waco office. "We're asking them to quit using all tobacco products, not just cigarettes, since they all cause cancer."

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Jessie Solomon | Lariat staff
Schuyler Webb, a sophomore from Branson, Mo., smokes Wednesday outside Common Grounds. The 29th Great American Smokeout is today.
According to the society's Web site, the first unofficial smokeout was in 1971 when guidance counselor Arthur P. Mullaney sponsored a day for people in Randolph, Mass., to stop smoking. The smokers were asked to donate the money they would've spent on cigarettes to a local high school's scholarship fund. Six years later, the society held its first official smokeout.

"Smoking rates have dropped 20 percent in the U.S. in the last 40 years," Dixon said. "Now only 22 percent of American adults use tobacco products, and the society has been a big part of helping people quit using tobacco."

Dixon said she encourages people to use the society's resources to quit. During November, the society promotes its quit line -- (877)-YES-QUIT (937-7848) -- which offers three free sessions of counseling services, advice and cessation materials to callers.

Dixon said she works with local schools to prevent smoking at a young age.

"This year we encouraged kids to participate in a no-smoking poster contest," Dixon said. "We also provide materials so local teachers can talk with their students about the dangers of smoking, and we've had volunteers give out brochures to students at McLennan Community College."

Montgomery senior William Springer said the smokeout is a good idea.

"I think it's great because if people can see it's not that bad to go a day without smoking, then they can see they'll be able to quit permanently," Springer said. "I would definitely participate in the smokeout."

Houston senior Lisa McClain said quitting smoking could be too hard during college.

"I've quit smoking twice before," McClain said. "I think the smokeout is a great idea, but I don't see college students really taking part in it. It's so hard to quit smoking while you're in college because your grades could drop and you'll feel more tired."

Louise Saunders, director of nurses for the Baylor Health Center, said the smokeout is a good way to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking.

"Certainly anybody in the medical field will tell you smoking is a bad habit," Saunders said. "The health-care providers here certainly support any effort by the American Cancer Society to help smokers and other tobacco users quit."

Dixon said the society is sponsoring for the first time a blog for college students to talk about quitting smoking at their Web site, www.cancer.org.

"Students who participate in the blogs can talk about their experiences involving smoking, cravings, temptations and anything else they go through while trying to quit," Dixon said. "The society hopes to show students nicotine addiction is very real and quitting is harder than they think. We hope they'll quit for good."