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By Eric Weld   Date: 11/17/09 Bookmark and Share

Kick the Habit? A Good Day to Start

This Thursday, Nov. 19, on National Great American Smokeout Day, a group of Smith psychology students will host a discussion on smoking cessation for the college community.

Coordinated by Heather Crawford ’10, the discussion aims to explore resources available to smokers on campus who have interest in quitting.

“Our project relies somewhat on Self-Determination theory and the idea that smokers succeed in quitting more often when they feel they are in control,” explains Crawford of the discussion, which will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in Campus Center 103/104. “Students will be actively engaged in collaborating on the best way to approach smoking cessation on campus.”

The students leading the project are enrolled in the seminar “Society, Psychology and Health,” taught by Benita Jackson, assistant professor of psychology. As opposed to a one-time smoking cessation workshop, the students’ discussion is intended as a first step in an ongoing effort to assist smokers who want to quit. Related events will likely follow, such as a Smoking Cessation Support Group, Crawford says.

College life is stressful, no question, especially at a school like Smith, with high demands for academic performance. Smoking cigarettes is often a form of managing stress and anxiety, says Emily Nagoski, wellness education director at Smith.

“Quitting smoking is notoriously difficult,” attests Nagoski, who successfully quit smoking in 2005. “And smoking is higher among Smithies than among other college women.”

According to the National College Health Assessment conducted last spring, about 7.7 percent of Smith students report smoking cigarettes every day. That percentage, while slightly higher than the national average of 5 percent among college women, is much lower than the perception of Smith smokers.

Still, Nagoski would prefer a lower percentage of smokers at Smith, both for the health of those who smoke and those who breathe the resultant pollution. She welcomes discussions such as the student-organized class project, both for the information it will yield about smoking habits at Smith and other colleges, and for the awareness it raises about the issue.

In support of the Great American Smokeout, Nagoski will distribute stickers embossed with the slogan, “Kiss a Non-smoker, Taste the Difference!” And she will be quick to share information that “four out of five Smithies haven’t smoked at all in the past 30 days.”

The annual event, first launched by the American Cancer Society in 1977, challenges smokers to abstain from inhaling tobacco for one day while raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and aids to quitting.

If one can quit smoking for one day, suggests the campaign, perhaps she can multiply the effort.

Some schools have embraced recommendations by the American College Health Association to ban smoking on campus—at least in designated zones—with positive results of measurably reduced percentages of smokers among faculty, staff and students. The University of Kentucky recently adopted a policy banning smoking and tobacco use anywhere on campus with the support of about two-thirds of the campus population.

At Smith, it’s uncertain what methods would be most effective in reducing the percentage of smokers, Nagoski says. But, she adds, holding a conversation like the student event on November 19 is a good place to start.

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