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pacing the void

By Jennifer Sterba
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 2, 1997

Up in smoke


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Illustration by Chad Strawderman

Ted Watson has tried to quit smoking several times during the past 13 years.

Quitting cold turkey or using Nicorette gum worked for a while, but each time, the 29-year- old would eventually start up again.

"I thought one (cigarette) would be OK," said Watson, a senior in marketing and entrepreneurship.

Watson started smoking in high school.

"Now I smoke outside my house," he said. Watson has a wife and an 11-month-old baby girl. He said he is concerned about his daughter's health when he holds her because the cigarette smoke lingers on his clothes.

Watson said he does not want his daughter to start smoking when she gets older.

"Just because I do it doesn't make it right," Watson said.

Big Tobacco faces big losses

The tobacco industry reached a settlement a couple of weeks ago that is aimed at preventing children from ever picking up a cigarette and providing programs to help smokers like Watson quit.

During the next 25 years, the industry is expected to pay $368.5 billion for lawsuit compensation, finance of anti-tobacco advertising, and programs to help smokers quit.

In exchange, the industry will receive immunity from future class-action lawsuits and compensation for individual claims will be capped at $5 billion a year.

Students on campus have mixed feelings about whether the tobacco industry settlement is fair, but they agree it won't prevent more people from picking up the habit in the near future.

"You can't slam them for making a profit," Watson said.

Although Watson said he believes the Joe Camel character is unethical, he thinks that as long as the government receives taxes from tobacco sales, the number of smokers will not decrease as a trend.

"The government is addicted to the money generated from those taxes," he said.

A 'badge of honor?'

Andrew Ferguson, an unrepentant smoker, commented in Time magazine's June 30 issue viewpoint, "The unintended consequence of each new restriction has been to make smoking a badge of honor, a sign of one's refusal to give in."

In his column, Ferguson said he thought smokers regarded their habit as what made them an individual.

Many University of Arizona students who smoke disagree with Ferguson's opinion.

"You can't be an individual on what you do," said Jonathan Howard, a senior studying psychology. "It's what you think."

Heather Brossard, a graduate student in creative writing, said she thought for many students, smoking made socializing easier.

"I always thought that smoking brought people together," Brossard said. "I didn't feel so self-conscious."

Brossard said she started smoking in bars and dance clubs whenever bad music would play. It was a barroom hobby, she said.

"I didn't really care," Brossard said. "I grew up with people who smoked a lot." Brossard added that when she started smoking, it was a choice.

Brossard said she thinks people could get cancer from just about anything today, including eating, drinking and the environment.

She said she might quit if she were pregnant, it became too expensive or if she grew bored of the habit.

"I still like it a lot," Brossard said.

Heather Fahey, an undecided junior, agreed with Brossard that smoking was a social trend. She said she believed the number of students who smoke increased in college.

But Fahey thought the settlement reached with the tobacco industry was not fair.

"They have the right to sell," Fahey said. "It's the person's choice to buy."

Fahey does not smoke, but said she does not think badly of friends who do.

"I think people know the affects (of smoking)," Fahey said. "They'll do it anyway."

Kicking the habit

Scott Leischow, director for the Arizona Program for Nicotine and Tobacco Research, said his program provides research and clinical services to help people quit smoking.

The program is equally funded by the National Institute of Health, pharmaceutical companies and revenue from the tobacco tax. Statistically, Leischow said the average age of people who try to quit smoking is early-to mid-40s.

"People start feeling the health affects of smoking," Leischow said. Most people in that age group have children, which also serves as a motivator, he said.

The program, part of the Arizona Prevention Center, develops new medications, such as the nicotine patch and the newest product on the market, Zyban.

Zyban is the first non-nicotine medication. In its generic form, it has been used to treat depression, Leischow said.

Zyban can only be obtained through a physician, he said. Patients who are seizure-prone should not be prescribed the medication.

The non-nicotine medication is believed to work 50 percent better than the over-the-counter medications, Leischow said.

He said the products smokers buy over-the-counter, like the nicotine patch and Nicorette gum, are unlikely to work without the help of a behavioral support program.

Zyban raises dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter in the nervous system, the same way nicotine does but without the pleasure associated with smoking.

Leischow said when smokers try to quit, their dopamine levels decrease, making them feel bad.

Taking Zyban increases dopamine levels again, making the patient feel better.

Leischow said the process works the same way when an individual takes aspirin. Aspirin takes care of the pain only if it exists. If there is no pain, there is no effect felt from the aspirin.

Likewise, Zyban raises dopamine levels only if the patient is feeling the withdrawal affects of nicotine. When the affects subside, the affect of Zyban is no longer felt or needed.

Therefore Zyban appears to be non addictive, Leischow said.

Individuals who want to quit smoking can call the Arizona Smoker's Helpline at 1-800-556-6222.

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