A breath of fresh air for Villanovans

Jane Donahue

I once bought a T-shirt from Wet Seal, complete with a crowned frog puckering out its red lips, reading “Kiss Me I Don’t Smoke.” While the fact was and still is true that I do not smoke, truthfully the reason I bought the shirt for its $5 sale price. This was years ago, when statement T-shirts could be considered edgy fashion and failed to annoy people the way they do today. At least this one did not indicate my preference for a particular member of whatever celebrity couple shocked the world with their divorce that week.

This shirt makes rare appearances. Although this shirt currently hangs in my dorm room closet, my reasons for not wearing it go beyond avoiding a fashion crime. Cigarettes play a regular part of many students’ routine on campuses across the nation, Villanova being no exception. This month’s session of the Smoking Cessation Program, sponsored by Villanova’s Center for Health and Wellness Education, draws students attention to an issue usually overlooked.

Take for instance that anti-tobacco amphibian shirt. In retrospect, the entire clothing rack at the store was full of those shirts-they clearly had not been hot items. That packed sale rack indicated that not only did some shoppers manage to retain a sense of style, but also that teenager shoppers lacked a desire to publicly knock smoking. Despite an inner dislike of the act, many people still would not outwardly object to their peers.

Is smoking that much of a problem on Villanova’s campus? My guess is that you have not gotten a chance to read the American Lung Association’s statistical fact sheets, which would tell you that about 90 percent of the 4.5 million American youths who smoke start before they hit 21.

These college years mark a time when older teens are more apt to begin smoking, or intensify their pre-existing habit. As freshmen, kids are legal to buy cigarettes, enjoy a lack of parental scrutiny, and discover new sources of stress and anxiety. New friends and locations provide opportunities for people to try things they typically pass up, such as cigarettes. Drinking alcohol also prompts some to try cigarettes – many students say that smoking feels more natural when holding a drink.

“Drinking didn’t make me want to smoke, but I realized smoking gave an added buzz to drinking,” junior Eileen Keane said. “I didn’t think it hurt or tasted bad at first. One night during Senior Beach Week I couldn’t go to bed because I was coughing so much. I had been smoking a lot that week. I realized it wasn’t worth giving up my sleep and my lungs.”

Like many other young adult smokers, Keane smoked infrequently when alone with friends for a brief period. Worried at the first sign of physical harm, she was able to stop immediately.

For those having trouble with the addiction, the cessation program offers free counseling for all Villanovans including students, staff, and faculty. Started back in 2002, sessions are facilitated by Kara Hawthorne, the local educator at Main Line Health.

You might have already seen Main Line Health running this program off campus nearby. Villanova hosts it at least twice a year, making it easier for the students and adults always on campus. Weekly meetings, held in Room 200 of the Health Services Building, consist of groups receiving professional assistance as well as advice, pointers, and support from members. Regular attendance at the weekly meetings is expected of all members. And since we are a society that responds to incentive, the faithful participants who make it to all meetings walk away with a prize as well as healthier lungs.

If you cannot participate in the current session, which runs from September 7 to October 19, do not give in to the Nicotine voices in your head. Hawthorne commonly hears interest from people planning on attending upcoming programs. The program will return to campus every semester, also occurring in local sites off campus.

Smoking and non-smoking students alike say that with enough publicity they believe in the programs’ chance for effectiveness-good news for the 63 percent of smokers the Health Center says need outside help to quit.

To sign up for the program, e-mail Jennifer Flannelly ([email protected]). Successful quitters are free to borrow my shirt.