By: Michelle Chance
On Nov. 20, MCC partnered with various organizations to recognize the Great American Smoke Out, a national event which encourages smokers to quit.
Information tables were situated outside of the AS building near the courtyard which offered information and educational material on the dangers and health risks of smoking and chewing tobacco.
The Cancer Association, the American Lung Association, and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health were a few of the organizations present at the event.
“We want to raise awareness, we want to educate people, and we want to encourage them to quit,” said Lilliana Cardenas, Prevention Program Education supervisor with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
According to Cardenas, many smokers begin the habit early in life, so awareness at community colleges and universities is a step in smoking prevention and quitting.
“A lot of people will attempt to start fairly young, while in their teens, but college is also a big time because of access,” said Cardenas. “That is when you can purchase cigarettes, so the age is definitely a factor there.”
In July 2012, all Maricopa Community Colleges, including MCC, adopted the BreatheEasy initiative which prohibited tobacco use on all campuses.
However, some students at MCC can still be found smoking electronic cigarettes, even though they are also banned on campus.
E-cigarettes are often thought of as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, however lack of research fails to prove if they are any less dangerous than regular cigarettes.
“I think they are trying to tilt them as being a safer alternative or a way for people to quit smoking,” said Cardenas. “They move you away from the tobacco dependency, but they don’t move you away from the nicotine dependency because they still have nicotine.”
“So right now there is still a lot of research being done to see what the long term effects are, but because they are so new we don’t really know for sure. The safest choice is to stop altogether.”
Cardenas offered three tips to quitting. The first was self-education about the dangers of smoking.
“Here we have an example of what cigarette smoke and tobacco has in it,” said Cardenas, pointing to various products like rat poison and household cleaners which were set up on her table.
“That’s what makes them so deadly. It’s not just tobacco, it’s all the chemicals that are in it to make that cigarette or chew tobacco.”
Her second tip for smokers was to acquire the understanding that it takes a lot of tries to quit.
“A lot of people come with the expectation that they have to quit on the first try and that is not the reality. Most people quit after 8 to 10 tries because it is an addiction, it’s a habit, and a lifestyle,” Cardenas said.
Cardenas’ final tip was a reminder to smokers that there are many resources and organizations available to help them quit.
“In the state of Arizona we have many resources including the ASHLine,” said Cardenas. “They give tips, support, counseling, and they also give free treatment with the nicotine gum and replacement patches.”
Despite the dangers, there is always hope for recovery from the damage that smoking causes once a smoker decides to quit.
“No matter how long you’ve been smoking, the sooner you quit, the quicker your health will benefit,” Cardenas said.