The Great American Smokeout Challenge is an event sponsored by the American Cancer Society as part of their Great American Health Challenge initiative, a year-round venture that encourages Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles to reduce the risk of cancer.

Colleges Against Cancer instituted this event on the UR campus as one of their three annual awareness initiatives, the other two being Think Pay Week and Shave to Save.

The Great American Smokeout took place on Thursday, Nov. 19 and was a day dedicated to prevention and education aimed to provide UR students with access to information about the detrimental effects of smoking.

The event coordinators, sophomore Emily DaSilva and junior Nicole Holdsworth, worked in conjunction with University Health Service and the American Cancer Society to prepare for this intervention.

‘I know a lot of adults who smoke, and I have friends who have recently picked up the social smoking habit,” Holdsworth said.

‘What makes me angry is how they can do it when they know it is harmful!” DaSilva said. ‘UHS informed us that 13 percent of the UR student body does smoke. Encouraging healthy lifestyles is important and any way to potentially fight smoking is always helpful.”

Tables were set-up in Hirst Lounge and Goergen Athletic Center and were manned by members of CAC. Over 30 different types of brochures were on display and disseminated to members of the UR campus during the course of the day. Other materials included a Smoker’s Calculator, a pull-out pamphlet that provided readers with statistics on the average amount of money they spent on cigarettes depending upon the length of time they had been smoking in their lifetime, cards with phone numbers of smokers’ quit lines and brochures discussing the adverse effects of Hookah.

In addition to the tables, members of the Medical Emergency Response Team were conducting free blood pressure screenings for students and faculty. To reach out to more students, Connections, Douglass Dining Center and Danforth Dining Center all featured ‘Cold Turkey” meal specials to spread the message as well.

DaSilva and Holdsworth began their preparations for this event in September. Fliers were created and hung around campus to remind people of the consequences of smoking.

Garish images including decayed teeth or fingers and cancerous growths were displayed on these posters. UHS hung banners and advertised their services to encourage students to feel comfortable using their services to discuss their smoking behaviors.

According to the coordinators, this year’s implementation of the Great American Smokeout was more successful and well advertised in comparison to past years.

‘Some people did effectively take into consideration what we showed them,” DaSilva said. ‘There are some that will never quit, unfortunately, but at least they can stay informed about the consequences of what they are doing.”

Education is integral in promoting awareness and insight into the physical, emotional, mental and social repercussions of smoking. The success of the Great American Smokeout can be attributed to the teamwork, collaboration and leadership of CAC in stepping up and promulgating pertinent information to the student population.

Venkateswaran is a member of the class of 2011.

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