For most UCF students, last week was a countdown to a relaxing, turkey-stuffed Thanksgiving break.
But for cigarette smokers, it can have another meaning.
The American Cancer Society sponsors The Great American Smokeout annually on the third Thursday of November, a nationwide campaign that offers support for those battling with smoking and asks them to make a pledge to quit.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for one of every five deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
This fall is UCF’s fifth anniversary of being a smoke-free campus, and the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) and Student Government Association (SGA) teamed up Thursday on the Student Union patio to give support and information to the student body about quitting.
Smoking has decreased drastically on UCF’s campus after the university launched its smoke-free campaign in fall 2012, Coordinator of UCF Relations and Public Affairs Crystal Covenbach said.
There are more than 2,000 smoke-free campuses in the nation as of Oct. 2, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation’s website.
“There has been a 75 percent decrease in student smokers on campus since we went smoke free, although there are the select few who still smoke on campus,” Covenbach said.
Covenbach joined SHAC five years ago and said the committee piloted UCF’s transformation into a smoke-free campus.
“Thank you for not smoking out of concern for the health and comfort of us all,” UCF President John C. Hitt said in a 2012 video announcing the new policy.
SHAC tabled outside the Student Union on Thursday to encourage students to sign a pledge vowing to be smoke free. The event also featured a board filled with notes written by UCF students to encourage their peers who are struggling with smoking.
A Catch Your Breath UCF tent was also set up by SHAC on Thursday outside the Business Administration I and Engineering I buildings to promote and educate students on the smoke-free policy.
UCF student Joshua Dooling, 23, said he struggles with smoking cigarettes but was not interested in attending the smoke-free events on campus or signing the pledge to quit.
Dooling, a junior computer science major, said he started smoking this January and now smokes two or three cigarettes a day.
UCF Assistant Professor of Psychology Robert Dvorak specializes in studying smokers’ habits, why they smoke and why it’s so hard for smokers to avoid relapsing.
Smoking is a process, and people don’t just pick up cigarettes and start smoking a pack a day, Dvorak said. People are highly influenced by who they surround themselves with, he said.
“My father used to smoke, and my roommate last year smoked; I believe that has had an effect on my choice to smoke, also stress from school,” Dooling said.
Cigarettes greatly impact mood and are known to physiologically get rid of negative emotions, Dvorak said.
“[Cigarettes] make the good moods good and the bad moods better,” he said.
Dvorak also said nicotine is more addictive and harder to quit than hard drugs such as heroin, and noted the withdrawals from smoking happen within minutes of quitting, making it easier to relapse.
Two weeks after trying to quit smoking, Dooling relapsed, he said.
SHAC also held a smoking-cessation orientation on Thursday in the Global UCF building on UCF’s main campus, led by co-chair of the campus smoke-free committee Mary Schmidt-Owens, to showcase resources UCF offers to smokers who want to quit.
Nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gums are available at the UCF Health Center Pharmacy, Knight Aide Pharmacy and Convenience Store in Knights Plaza on UCF’s main campus, according to the Smoke-Free UCF website.
Dvorak’s tips to help quit smoking cigarettes:
- Don’t look at past attempts to stop quitting as failed. It usually take six to 10 times for most users to quit. Look at them as steps forward in your overall goal to stop smoking completely.
- Don’t try quitting by yourself. For example, trying a product like a nicotine patch can make the adjustment easier for some users.
- Replace the habit. Because smoking is a repetitive habit, try replacing it with something else you could do all day, such as chewing gum.