Getting the ‘Smoke Out’ of your system

By Stephanie Taylor

Police tape has blocked off the Quad’s perimeter as 160 chalked bodies cover its sidewalks. Hanging on the police tape are 2,500 pictures symbolizing the cause of this mass murderous crime scene. The most devastating truth is that all of these victims are responsible for their own deaths.

On Thursday, the American Cancer Society is presenting the 29th annual “Great American Smoke Out” with the assistance of the Champaign City Tobacco Prevention Coalition and the Colleges Against Cancer.

The campaign’s goal is to spread public awareness of the harmful affects of smoking.

“The point is to give people resources and information they need in order to quit smoking by putting the publicity out there to help them quit locally,” said Renee Lyell, health initiatives representative at the American Cancer Society.

Lyell will be speaking about resources available in the community on radio station WQQB 96.1 on Thursday morning. The Illinois Tobacco Quit Line and the American Cancer Society are just two of many resources that can assist people in their goal of dropping the dangerous habit.

The University’s Colleges Against Cancer is trying to send the message to students in a visually stimulating way. The chalking of the 160 bodies represents the 160,000 Americans that die of lung cancer each year and the 2,500 pictures of smoker lungs and healthy lungs represent the number of people that will die this semester in Illinois alone, said co-president Adam Schwartz, senior in ACES.

“Eighty-nine percent of the students on campus live in the state of Illinois … so this should hit home for the majority of campus,” Schwartz said.

In each chalked body will be important facts about smoking. Not smoking is the number one preventable way to decrease the chances of getting cancer, Schwartz said. On the Quad, the College Against Cancer members will be handing out “quit kits” to those that are serious about starting the challenge of quitting.

“Quit kits” are decorated “no smoking” bags that contain brochures about smoking, information on local resources that can encourage quitting, candy and a water bottle, Lyell said. There will be 400 to 425 “quit kits” handed out all over Champaign County. Kits can be picked up many places, including the Quad, McKinley Health Center, Parkland College and the American Cancer Society.

Ilene Harned, alcohol and other drug office coordinator at McKinley Health Center, said that college students are drawn into smoking in a subconscious way.

“Many college students see themselves as social smokers when they go out,” she said. “They don’t realize that they’re picking up the habit.”

Ellen Caruso, junior in Business and member of the Colleges Against Cancer’s Cancer Control Committee, said she hopes that this year’s “Smoke Out” simulation on the Quad will have a more profound effect on students than last year’s event. Last year, the group had volunteers walk in crowds on the Quad and then suddenly “drop dead” in their tracks to symbolize deaths from smoking. This only happened during a small part of the day, but this year’s simulation will be up from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will have a greater visual impact on the students, Caruso said.

Students will also be able to buy “Think Pink” T-shirts on the Quad in support of breast cancer and can register their teams for the University’s Relay for Life that will take place in April, Caruso said.

Schwartz said he thinks events like this are important because they help open students’ eyes to the problems of smoking now and in the future.

“Society can come together to see the risks associated with what was once a fun pastime that is now truly a public health issue.”