April 2, 2008 is known as National Kick Butts Day. Smokers are encouraged to use this day as a starting point for their plan to quit. People who do not use tobacco can celebrate their healthful choice and learn how to support others who decide to become tobacco-free. A new study has found that most college students who smoke plan to quit before graduation. The West Chester University Health and Wellness Center is committed to helping those students achieve their goal. The Health and Wellness Center understands that quitting smoking is one of the best things a person can do for one’s health and for his or her loved ones. Students who quit smoking say they have more money, smell better and get sick less often. Students have also said that they feel that they have more dating options with people who will only date non-smokers.
With prolonged use, smoking can cause many health related problems. Cigarette use has been linked to lung and mouth cancers, heart disease, emphysema, asthma, stroke and heart attacks in people who smoke. Although many negative impacts seem far off in the future, college students should be aware of two specific problems that can occur among the college age group. Women who take hormonal contraceptives, such as the birth control pill, patch or ring, and smoke have an increased risk for high blood pressure or stroke. Men have experienced decrease in sexual performance related to smoking.
Nonsmokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke can also suffer negative health effects. Smokers can protect everyone on campus by smoking far away from building entrances and windows and using cigarette butt receptacles.
Deciding to stop smoking takes hard work, strong support and a willingness to forgive one’s self for setbacks. It also takes a plan, preferably written, that is thought out in stages. It is important for those who want to quit, and those helping a friend to quit, to remember a few tips to quit smoking.
First, think about the reasons to quit and write them down. Then, tell friends and family about the decision to quit, and ask for support, specifically on the “quit day.” Next, make a list of triggers: the people, places and feelings that make you want to smoke.
Also, list alternatives to smoking. Eating healthy snacks, chewing gum, candy, drinking water and using a toothpick can all keep the mouth busy. A person can plan to relieve stress through exercise, taking a bath, meditation, playing a sport or any other activity he or she finds soothing. After doing all of the prep work, he or she will be ready to quit.
It is also important to choose a day to stop smoking, or a day to cut the use of tobacco by a certain number of cigarettes. Actively avoid smoking triggers, especially early on in the quitting process. If it is difficult, have a supportive person nearby when those triggers are around. Many people find that keeping a journal of their progress helpful.
Most importantly, be ready to face a slipup without judging harshly or throwing in the towel. Changing a habit is a process, and relapse is a normal, predictable part of it. Examine what happened, learn from it and plan for how to handle the situation more positively next time.
The Health and Wellness Center supports WCU students and staff who wish to quit smoking everyday, not just on Kick Butts Day. The Health and Wellness Center is located on the second floor of Wayne Hall and offers many options. Hypnosis for Tobacco Cessation, run by a clinical hypnotherapist, is free to all WCU staff and students. The next session is April 23 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Sykes Student Union, room 252. No sign up is necessary.
The Health and Wellness Center also has free medication available to students who wish to quit. The medication is free to students, thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania Health Department. Both the Nicoderm patch and Chantix, an oral medication, are available. These medications are both designed to help adults quit smoking and has been found to be very effective in doing so.
The Nicoderm patch works by allowing nicotine into the blood stream to help lessen cravings. Chantix works by blocking nicotine receptors in the brain. Call the West Chester Health Center at 610-436-2509 to make a cessation appointment and get the medication that is right.
The Wellness Center also offers one-on-one strategy sessions for students. Call 610-436-3276 to make an appointment to create a personalized plan. Also pick up a free “quit kit” at the Wellness Center to aid in the process of quitting. The kit includes more tips to quit, support group information and a variety of tools to use to help with cravings like gum, puzzles and straws. There is also information available on how to help a friend who has decided to stop using tobacco.
Celebrate National Kick Butts Day by committing to quit by using to one of these options. If a person does not smoke, take the day to learn how to support a friend who is trying to quit or to prevent kids from choosing to use tobacco. For more information on quitting, visit the WCU Wellness Center or check out smokefree.gov. For more information on National Kick Butts Day, visit kickbuttsday.org.
Justine DiEmedio is a fourth-year student majoring in nursing. She can be reached at JD588980@wcupa.edu.