What if there was one day every year when people quit smoking?

This idea follows what the Safety Environment and Education Center was aiming for yesterday when it held its first annual "Great American Smokeout" on Pedestrian Walkway. The event was used to remind people of the risks involved with tobacco use and to encourage them to quit smoking on that day, if even only for that day.

Siera Seward, senior in psychology, noted that the event probably wouldn't get people to completely quit smoking but that it would encourage them to try.

"I wouldn't say that it would completely halt everything ... but I think it really does help make a first step," she said.
Millions of Americans have a regular habit of smoking. It's not uncommon to see students walking around campus with a cigarette in their hands. However, tobacco use has many negative consequences, and according to the UTK campus events website, it "remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S."

The S.E.E. Center made an effort to remind students of these risks by passing out "quit smoking" packets and displaying facts about smoking on their booth.

"One of the things we want to do is educate students of the effects smoking has on their body," said Rosa Thomas, a coordinator for the S.E.E. Center. "When a person smokes cigarettes, that smoke goes through their whole body and their lungs. Cigarette smoking leads to so many health problems."

Chloe Ashley, a first year graduate student in public health, thinks people should try to quit smoking, and booths like the one the S.E.E. Center has set up can help, but it's ultimately up to the smoker to make the decision to quit.

"I think you should quit while you're ahead ... I think it's more of a personal choice to stop," she said.

Rosa understands that there are appealing reasons to start smoking.

"I think a lot of women start smoking because they see it as a way to lose weight," she said. "They feel if they keep a cigarette in their mouth, they're keeping food out."

Seward mentioned that both internal and external factors can drive people to start smoking.

"I think it's due to a lot of stress, and also environmental factors — with friends, they think it's the cool thing to do," she said.

Thomas also mentioned another lesser known but equally dangerous method of tobacco intake: hookah. A hookah is like a large pipe with an attached hose that is used to smoke tobacco.

"A lot of people have been going to the hookah lounge, and they don't think it's dangerous," she said, citing two hookah lounges near campus that are popular with some students. Thomas noted that smoking hookah for an hour is the equivalent of smoking 200 cigarettes. Another danger involved with hookah use is the possibility of contracting a disease, such as mono or bronchitis, from a sick person who has used the same hookah previously.

An American Cancer Society brochure included in the packets the S.E.E. Center was handing out mentioned several benefits of quitting smoking: after 12 hours of not smoking, the carbon monoxide level in a person's blood drops to normal; one year after quitting, the excess risk of heart disease becomes half that of someone who still smokes; and 15 years after quitting, the risk of heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.