Students encouraged to “put out” this week

By Gretchen Andersen

Sean Zajdel can’t stand it when someone is smoking in front of him.

“It’s the worst,”… Sean Zajdel can’t stand it when someone is smoking in front of him.

“It’s the worst,” the junior said. “I don’t understand the addiction.”

Zajdel is not alone. It is a common sight on campus to see students duck their heads or pass by people in front of them to avoid the puffs of a cigarette smoker.

This week marks Tobacco Awareness Week, a week-long series of activities devoted to promoting awareness of the effects of smoking and smokeless tobacco. Pitt Student Health Services and several student organizations are co-sponsoring the events, the first of which was held on Monday on the William Pitt Union lawn from noon to 1 p.m.

Anna Vitriol, a health educator at Student Health Services, said that according to the 2009 National College Health Assessment conducted at Pitt, 48.1 percent of Pitt students have used hookah, 41.2 percent of Pitt students have smoked some form of cigarettes and 11.9 percent of Pitt students have used smokeless tobacco.

Tobacco use in general, Vitriol said, can cause health hazards.

“Its many detrimental effects on health are well-established and include triggering asthma attacks, causing lung cancer and causing cardiovascular and other lung diseases,” Vitriol said.

On Monday, the kickoff event brought students up to the table on the WPU lawn where they could receive wristbands and bright red T-shirts that read “I hope you put out” on the front and “ … that cigarette” on the back.

Junior Raheel Haque, picked up one of the free T-shirts. Haque, a resident assistant who often talks to his residents about smoking, said he thinks there are “way too many people smoking on campus.”

Vitriol said one research study found that the four most common reasons college students give for their smoking habits are stress, less supervision, having more free time and the number of their friends who smoke.  

“In fact, many college students report that they often use smoking as a means of controlling stress and/or depression,” she said.

Vitriol said second-hand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, is classified as a Class A carcinogen. She said that there is “significant” evidence to support that second-hand smoke is harmful to nonsmokers as well as smokers.

Unfortunately, Vitriol acknowledged that avoiding second-hand smoke is “ineffective” in enclosed spaces or outside entrance areas and sidewalks.

“Smoke can easily travel through open doors, through heating and air circulation vents. People must walk on sidewalks through the smoke of others, and smoke easily travels outside any established boundaries or designated areas,” Vitriol said.

Vitrol said that Tobacco Awareness Week will continue with several activities throughout the week.

From noon to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, PantherWELL, Stress-Free Zone and Tobacco Free Allegheny will set up information tables in Towers Lobby. Tobacco Free Allegheny, a local nonprofit that works to provide awareness about the use of tobacco, will present an age-progression demonstration.

Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. in Towers Lobby, Student Health Services will hold mini QUIT (Quit Using Irritating Tobacco) sessions, which outline steps students can take to stop using tobacco. The program is sponsored by Office of Health Education and Promotion at Student Health Services, according to the Student Health website.

Vitriol said the QUIT program is six weeks long and offers participating students two weeks worth of free nicotine patches. The sessions are one-on-one with a graduate-level intern and the student.

On Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. in Towers Lobby, PantherWELL will sponsor the Great American Smokeout — a national event sponsored by the American Cancer Society that encourages smokers to quit smoking on Nov. 17 or set a quit date.

Vitriol said that students will learn about tobacco-related topics they might never have known about before, such as the dangers of hookah.

“One hour of smoking hookah is equivalent to 100 cigarettes,” Vitriol said.

Tobacco Awareness Week is being sponsored by the following Pitt organizations: First-Year Experience Office, Stress-Free Zone, PantherWELL, Colleges Against Cancer, Student Government Board, Outside the Classroom Curriculum, Emerging Leaders, PALS, First-Year Mentors, Gamma Sigma Sigma Sorority and Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. The nonprofit organization Tobacco Free Allegheny is providing additional community support.