Students disregard smoking programs

Marissa Weeman

There are no butts about it: Northwestern provides many opportunities to help students quit smoking. But officials say many of those resources are not being used.

“I wouldn’t go for help,” said Communication senior Natalie Monahan, who said she smokes about 15 cigarettes a day. “I started on my own, and I don’t see why I can’t quit on my own.”

NU Health Educator Patti Lubin said there is no harm in students going to educated professionals to obtain the tools they might need to quit on their own.

“I want the students to be aware of their options,” Lubin said. “Some students are ready to quit on their own. It depends on how often you smoke.”

Students’ options include a free Stop Smoking Clinic, offered by the Evanston and Skokie Health Departments, that meets at the Evanston Civic Center and is open to NU students. Additionally, students can call the Illinois Department of Public Health quitline at 1-866-QUIT YES or visit the American Lung Association Web site.

Lubin added that students can always visit University Health Services to discuss ways of quitting.

A May 2000 Core Institute health survey found that 26 percent of NU students smoked during the previous 30 days, a drop from the 28 percent of NU students who smoked in 1998. At some college campuses, such as the University of Kentucky, smoking is more prevalent.

In 1999, the University of Kentucky began offering on-campus programs to end smoking after a health survey revealed that 33 percent of students smoked, according to Ruth “Topsy” Staten, Ph.D., and University of Kentucky substance abuse specialist.

“I developed smoking cessation programs tailored for college students and enhanced student access to information about smoking cessation,” Staten wrote in an e-mail. “We have also worked to have other health care providers in student health ask and advise students who smoke.”

Staten said most programs are individual and involve assessing a student’s smoking patterns, as well as teaching them how to manage cravings and reduce stress. When appropriate, medication such as Zyban or nicotine-replacement products are prescribed.

Lubin noted that the methods students use to quit depend on their smoking patterns and reasons for smoking.

Lubin said that students who smoke for habitual purposes, such as when they drink their morning coffee, need to focus on changing the habit itself before they can quit. Something as easy as holding the cigarette with the opposite hand can make a difference.

Communication junior Caitlin Mitchell said she started smoking just before entering college.

“I started because I was curious about it and had anxiety before I came here,” said Mitchell, who said she smokes one or two cigarettes per day. “It definitely releases tension.”

Like Monahan, Mitchell said she was skeptical about organized programs and would not consider getting help.

As with NU, Staten said that at the University of Kentucky there are many students reluctant to take advantage of available resources.

“I don’t think we are getting the volume that we would like,” Staten said. “I think we will develop a marketing campaign that addresses both prevention and cessation, but we are just beginning to work on that.”

Lubin said she would like to see more students take the initiative to quit.

“Certainly, if you do smoke, strongly consider quitting,” she said. “If you don’t smoke, don’t start.”