October 28, 2005
The Great American Smokeout, traditionally held the third Thursday in November as a day set aside to encourage smokers to go "cold turkey", is getting an early start at the University of Maine at Fort Kent this month.
To prepare smokers on campus to quit for a day, Caroline Williams, assistant director of residential life and wellness is partnering with the Student Nurses Organization (SNO) to kick-off awareness efforts to encourage individuals who light up to kick the habit for at least one day.
They have designated November 1 as Tobacco Free Tuesday. Williams will offer free tobacco cessation counseling to any campus member that is interested in quitting.
"This day will get tobacco users prepared to quit for good on the Great American Smokeout planned for November 17 on campus. Ideally, a smoker or chewer should have two weeks to fully prepare to quit," said Williams.
On November 17, the wellness coordinator and SNO will have a table in Cyr Hall promoting the Great American Smokeout. Support will include providing not only free counseling, but also quit kits for anyone that commits to quitting for at least the day.
A typical quit kits contains sugar free gum, toothpicks, relaxing tea, a worry stone, a short straw (cigarette size, so you can pretend it's a cigarette), and information about the Maine tobacco helpline.
A former smoker, Williams quit the habit a year ago in a public campaign that allowed the UMFK campus community to monitor her progress by a daily posting on a university bulletin board, which showed how many consecutive smoke-free days she had reached.
As a result of her very public smoking cessation campaign, she has been approached by many individuals on the campus community seeking advice on quitting.
Williams has become trained in smoking cessation counseling through the Partnership for a Tobacco Free Maine and the Center for Tobacco Independence.
In addition to her work on smoking cessation, Williams, in her role as wellness coordinator at UMFK, is very involved in the Tobacco Use on Campus committee, an issue she readily admits can be polarizing.
"Tobacco is one of the most controversial topics on campus today. Smokers want to be able to smoke in more places, while nonsmokers want fewer smoking areas and less exposure to second-hand smoke," said Williams. "Chewers, on the other hand, slide under the radar since their habit has a very low 'annoyance factor' for others. So, although chewing tobacco is just as likely to have negative health effects to the user, there tend to be fewer efforts towards helping them quit."
Williams says the question that is currently being posed by the Tobacco Use on Campus committee is a difficult one. Recent surveys conducted at UMFK have questioned whether or not the campus should become a smoke-free or tobacco-free institution.
"It is a complicated issue, and one that is being thoroughly considered from all angles," noted Williams.