Dec 042009
Authors: David Martinez

Students looking to curb their smoking habit can pick up a menthol toothpick or two today in the Lory Student Center’s Health Network as part of the Great American Smokeout.

The Great American Smokeout — despite its smoker-friendly name — challenges people to quit using tobacco products for one day, and the campaign focuses on educating people of tobacco use facts rather than actively persuading them to quit.

The Smokeout, hosted by Creating Respect, Education, Wellness, by and for Students, will run a desk between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., providing pocket ashtrays, hookah information brochures and quit kits. The quit kits supply menthol-flavored toothpicks and contact information for tobacco-quitting hotlines.

CREWS helps students reduce the risks of alcohol consumption, tobacco consumption and sexual health. But peer educator advisor for CREWS Gwen Sieving said it has no way of lowering tobacco risk without stopping its use completely.

“Hands down, no argument, there is no safe level of any kind of tobacco,” Sieving said.

The American Cancer Society has sponsored the Great American Smokeout nationwide since 1977. However, CREWS has held the Smokeout every year since the organization’s conception in 2004.

On Thursday, the official day of the Smokeout, students on campuses nationwide will refrain from using smoke or tobacco related products for 24 hours.

“We’re focusing more on hookah this year,” said Megan Vernetti, a graduate student in education and human resource studies and a member of CREWS. “It’s fruity … but it still has the same poisonous chemicals (as cigarette tobacco). It’s really hard to create an awareness for it.”

The Smokeout hopes to address major misperceptions about smoking hookah, such as how water filters toxins out of the smoke, she said. Some of these misperceptions have made 18-to-24 year olds the largest growing group of tobacco users in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,000 young people become regular smokers every day, and more than one million young people become regular smokers every year. Half of smoking adults were regular smokers by the age of 18, and 90 percent of smoking adults were regular smokers by the age of 21.

“The reason we do anything with tobacco is that it’s the No. 1 preventable cause of death in America,” Sieving said.

The 15 members of CREWS also host prevention programs and PowerPoint presentations that provide up-to-date information on tobacco use and trends.

In late April, they will hold an event called Stomp, Romp and Wag, where dog owners can treat their pets to massages while learning about the dangers of second-hand smoke to animals.

The Quit Doing It quit smoking hotline can be reached at (800) 639-QUIT or

Staff writer David Martinez can be reached at

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