Nov 152006

Cigarette, cigar and hookah smokers along with people who chew tobacco are being asked to give up their habits.

Today is the 30th annual Great American Smokeout.

Hosted by the American Cancer Society, it’s a one-day event encouraging tobacco users to quit, even if just for one day.

“I think any step you can take toward quitting smoking is good,” said Susana Mendez, a senior technical journalism major and public relations intern in the Health Promotions office at Hartshorn Health Service.

Most people make three to five attempts to quit before conquering their addictions and are most successful in kicking the habit when they have support such as nicotine replacement products, counseling, guide books and encouragement from friends and family, according to the ACS.

“(The Smokeout) is a great idea, but everyone that I’ve known who has tried to quit has done just that – tried to quit,” said sophomore art major Emily Gosting, who smokes cigarettes.

The Wellness Zone will be giving away free quit-kits for smokers and chewers from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., said Gwen Sieving, a health educator at HHS. Students who want to quit smoking can also visit a specialist at the health center by calling 491-1702.

In addition to encouraging people to quit, the Health Promotions office is using the Smokeout to educate students about the dangers of hookah smoking.

A hookah is a large pipe that works as a water-filtration device and allows its users to smoke flavored tobacco.

Some students believe hookah smoke is less harmful than cigarette and cigar smoke.

Frank Gariglio, a senior civil engineering major, said he doesn’t know how hookah compares to cigarettes because he doesn’t have any knowledge or experience with the product.

“I view cigarettes as being more addictive than hookah – if you can say hookah is addictive,” said the non-smoker, adding that environment influences his view because he sees people smoking cigarettes throughout the day.

Hookah smokers typically smoke for 45 to 60 minutes a few days a week.

The Health Promotions office urges everyone to visit the Wellness Zone for more information about hookah and the Smokeout.

“I am not here to tell people they should or should not smoke,” Sieving said. “I want to make sure people get scientific documentation, and people can make their own decision.”

Sieving said cigarettes and tobacco aren’t regulated, so information on the toxic ingredients is collected by independent research.

Although hookah hasn’t been studied as intensely as cigarettes, preliminary research shows hookah smoking isn’t a safe alternative to cigarettes.

Hookah smoke produces 802 milligrams of tar and cigarette smoke produces an average of 11.2 milligrams of tar from one gram of tobacco, according to a study conducted in 2005 by Alan Shihadeh and Rawad Saleh, professors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

They also found that average cigarette smoke has four times less nicotine than hookah smoke, and a hookah smoker inhales 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke that is inhaled with a single cigarette during a typical one-hour hookah smoking session.

But many students haven’t heard these findings. Gosting also believes cigarettes are worse than hookah.

“It’s not something you can take with you like cigarettes, which are portable,” said Gosting, adding that she “started as social smoker and it progressed.”

Tobacco use can cause lung cancer and increases the risk for cancer of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver and kidney, among others, according to the ACS Web site. The Web site also states lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and it is also the most preventable form of cancer death in American society.

For more information about the Smokeout, visit the American Cancer Society’s Web site,, and for more information about hookah, visit the Hartshorn Health Service Web site,

“The goal is for everybody to stop smoking for at least that one day,” Mendez said.

Staff writer Heather Hawkins can be reached at

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