UA Health Promotion and Wellness challenges smokers to quit, offers to help

The Office of Health Promotion and Wellness at the University of Alabama launched a Tobacco Free Challenge on July 11, encouraging faculty, staff and students to quit smoking. The initiative, which lasted throughout the month of July, equipped smokers with the necessary tools needed to kick the habit.

Weekly group sessions were held at the University Medical Center from 12:15-1 p.m., and a toolkit was given to each participant, containing various resources to help them through the process, said Kay Whites, coordinator of the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness.

Group sessions discussed common tobacco triggers, behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy and various medication options available to participants, Whites said. The toolkit contained Alabama Quitline access, toothpicks, gum, sugar free candy, a deck of cards and candles for relaxation.

UA partners with the Alabama Quitline to provide assistance to individuals who want to quit smoking, Delynne Wilcox, assistant director of Health Planning and Prevention, said. The Alabama Quitline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It provides counseling, as well as pharmacological support, to help those trying to quit smoking.

“The Alabama Quitline offers the ideal package, and since it’s already a free service provided to all citizens, out-of-state students can take advantage of it also,” Wilcox said.

In addition, students are welcome to go to the Student Health Center and consult with a physician about which route would be best for quitting.

Wilcox said she has realized the best she can do is try to increase awareness about the need to quit smoking and connect students to resources that could help support them in that capacity. The Student Health Center also reaches out to the friends of individuals that smoke and encourage them to help their friends quit smoking.

“We have found that usually students listen to and pick up information from their friends, so we are trying to make all students aware of the dangers of smoking, and maybe they will pass that information on to a friend of theirs that smokes,” Wilcox said.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in 2010, 19.3 percent of U.S. adults 18 years of age and older were current smokers.

Approximately 69 percent of the individuals identified as smokers said they wanted to quit smoking completely, according to the document. Another 52 percent of those individuals said they had attempted to quit smoking.

Joshua Marshall, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, identified himself as being a tobacco user, but said he plans to quit smoking cigarettes once he graduates from college. In addition to the health risks associated with smoking, Marshall said he plans to quit because he has noticed that he usually only smokes when he is on campus.

“I am not a big smoker,” Marshall said. “I’ve noticed that smoking is something that I do only when I’m on campus studying or trying to kill time. I’ve also noticed that when I go to my grandparents’ house, I don’t smoke.”

On an average day, Marshall said he smokes less than half a pack, but when under a lot of stress, he usually smokes a whole pack, which contains 20 cigarettes.

“My smoking is mainly stress-induced,” he said.

Most people that smoke agree that stress is one of the main factors that drive them to smoke, Wilcox said.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to go to the Student Health Center or the University Medical Center to receive advice and assistance on how to become a nonsmoker.

For more information, call the Alabama Quitline at 1-800-784-8669 or visit wellness.ua.edu.

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