November 23, 2016.
PCC student smokers that missed the Great American Smokeout last week don’t have to wait another year before quitting.
The Great American Smokeout is an American Cancer Society’s (ACS) trademarked event that encourages smokers to quit on the third Thursday of every November since 1976. But really, any day is good to stop and if they need support smokers at PCC can head to the Student Health Office any day of the year.
Kendira Villalobos, a health education assistant at PCC, organized an event last week on campus to answer questions about smoking. Around ninety people showed up.
“I have friends that smoke a lot,” Villalobos said. “And I see that they always have to take a break for it, it takes away from their lives.”
According to the ACS the younger you are when you begin to smoke, the more likely you are to become addicted to nicotine.
During the Villalobos and her group walked around campus looking for cigarettes butts. They found almost 5,000, mainly near the parking structures and close to the Mirror pool where smokers usually gather.
PCC is a smoke-free campus and smokers must reach the sidewalk outside PCC to light up their cigarettes.
“We want to keep it discreet,” Arlacky Contreras said, a 21 year old theatre major and smoker. “Not everybody likes it, and if we can go in an area for smokers and everyone is cool with it then that’s fine. If there is a mother with a child we try to be discreet and go further.”
According to the 2014 Surgeon General Report almost all adult smokers started by age 26. And according to the ACS the younger you are when you begin to smoke, the more likely you are to become addicted to nicotine.
This means that colleges are places where prevention can have a powerful impact on potential smokers.
“We try to organize these kind of events once a year. We realized that many people don’t seem to know that vaping is also not permitted,” Villalobos said. “Even if we don’t have enough data and we know it should be less harmful [than smoking] it is not permitted. And many people also do not seem to know that hookah is also very unhealthy.”
Using electronic cigarettes is often called vaping. The e-cigarettes are battery operated devices that heat a solution of flavorings, nicotine and other chemicals that the user inhales and are considered tobacco products under California law. And so is the hookah, a type of water pipe.
“People have choices over what they put into their bodies,” PCC counseling psychologist Richard A. Beyer said. “They have to decide, is this going to be helpful or not? They’re making the choice in the belief it’s the best interest for them right now, based on what they’re thinking and what they are feeling.”
The number of younger Americans who smoke cigarettes has been going down since the late 1990s. Today everyone has access to information regarding the effects of smoking on health, of secondhand smoke, and of the addictive nature of cigarettes.
“It’s really hard to quit because it’s an addition, the way to do it for me is to cut down and find other things to keep me occupied with,” Contreras said.
Angelo Flores, a biology major at PCC, started smoking at fourteen. He now smokes a pack a day and is not considering quitting.
“Maybe in the future,” Flores said.
He knows what it takes to stop.
“I can go without smoking, the longest I have gone is three months when I was playing football 2 years ago. I stopped all of a sudden,” Flores said. Then, after his team lost their first round of playoff, he started smoking again.
Smoking less does not mean that it’s easier to stop. Contreras smokes four or five cigarettes a day, and some days does not smoke at all.
There is not one single right way to quit smoking. Smokers at PCC can to follow the Quit Smoking Program available for all students on campus. It consist of eight session with a clinician that will make a customized plan and help establish a quit day. It costs fifteen dollars, but the fee will be refunded if the program is completed.
“It’s really hard to quit because it’s an addition, the way to do it for me is to cut down and find other things to keep me occupied with,” Contreras said. He tried a couple of times when he was still smoking one cigarette a week, but did not stop.
“You must have the will and the mental capacity to stop,” he added.