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Smokers try to kick the nic for a day, then for good

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Megan McGeorge, a secondary education sophomore, has smoked "on and off" since she was 12 as a stress reliever. The national smokeout at the UA targets students like McGeorge by encouraging them to turn in packs of cigarettes for free giveaways.
By Jennifer Amsler
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 18, 2004
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Jennifer Huang knew she made a difference last year at the UA when a student approached her and said she quit smoking permanently.

Huang is the co-chair of the Great American Smokeout at the UA, which encourages students to give up smoking for the day and eventually give it up for good.

The Student Health Advisory Committee is celebrating the Great American Smokeout, a day created by the American Cancer Society 28 years ago, on the UA Mall today.

As a member of SHAC, Huang said she organized events for the Great American Smokeout at UA last year and did it again because she realized the impact of her involvement after speaking with the girl she helped.

"That made me happy last year. It made it all seem worthwhile," Huang said.

Huang said she realizes the importance of reaching out individually to students who smoke.

"The point isn't to help a million people out there. As long as we can get to a couple of people, then we've helped," she said.

SHAC will be on the Mall today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to hand out gift certificates to local restaurants in exchange for cigarettes and a 24-hour pledge to stay smoke-free for the day.

"The goal of the event is for students and faculty, or whoever comes by our booth, to quit smoking for 24 hours and hopefully take the next step to get the call for help," Huang said.

Dannielle Wheeler, a media arts senior, said one day is not enough time to encourage students to stop smoking.

"It takes three days for nicotine to leave your body. One day wouldn't help me, it would drive me crazy," she said.

Wheeler said she plans to quit smoking at the end of the semester, so she won't have the stress of school while she kicks the habit. She said she probably wouldn't participate in the event on the Mall because she has no intention to quit until then.

"To quit, you have to mentally make up your mind. If you are weak, you won't be able to do it," Wheeler said.

Huang said it is her hope that students can find a support network of other students who want to quit smoking.

"There are plenty of people out there to help, but they have to take the initiative themselves to throw out their cigarettes," she said.

SHAC collected cigarettes from about 30 students last year, and Huang said this year the organization wants to increase that number.

"Last year, a lot of smokers would pass by, look at us and still smoke their cigarettes in front of us. This year we want to draw more attention and be more interactive," Huang said.

Huang said she has discovered through research about nicotine that addictions among college students stem from stress and peer pressure in social situations.

"There is a lack of support of people around them," she said.

Lauren Lund, a journalism junior who has been smoking for six years, said she sometimes goes a day without a cigarette because she is sick or doesn't have money to purchase them. She said cravings kick in immediately just by seeing someone else smoke.

Lund said she plans to quit eventually and assumes most smokers want to do the same.

"It's one more thing to add to my to-do list," she said.

SHAC representatives will answer questions and a counselor from Arizona Smoker's Hotline will also be available to speak with.

Gift certificates offered on the Mall include Beyond Bread, Chuy's, Pastiche, El Corral, Applebee's, Tony Roma's, Sweet Tomatoes and Mimi's Café. Gift certificates are up to $25 in value.

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