U. Pittsburgh program helps smokers Q.U.I.T. their addiction
(U-WIRE) PITTSBURGH -- On the TV screen, a burning cigarette is held between the index and middle fingers of a woman's manicured hand. Sparks of red, orange, black and brown appear on the tip of the cigarette after the woman brings the filter to her lips
For the past six years, Pitt's health education office has helped between 100 and 150 students a year stop smoking through its Quit Using Irritating Tobacco program. Q.U.I.T. is a free service for students who want help to end their smoking addiction.
When a student first visits the office, they watch Butt Out. Edward Asner, an Emmy-award-winning actor who successfully quit smoking after 20 years, hosts the video. The movie also features ex-smokers who describe their experiences smoking and trying to quit. The program exposes the multitude of hazards smoking causes and tells how and why smokers should quit.
Kevin Angelo recalls attempting to quit smoking cigarettes at least seven times throughout his five-year stint as a smoker. The 22-year-old communications major usually puffs between a half and a whole pack of Marlboro Lights per day. When he comes down with a cold or sore throat, Kevin does not smoke throughout its duration. But as soon as he feels better or goes to a party or bar he begins to light up again.
"Quitting smoking is easy, I've done it several times, but it's just as easy to start again," Angelo said. "You shouldn't need help to quit, you have to want to do it for yourself, once you take responsibility, you will be able to conquer the habit."
A smoker's first visit to the office is concluded after he or she fills out a self-assessment questionnaire. Students are asked questions about their smoking habits, desire to quit smoking and how they heard of Q.U.I.T. If the smoker decides to participate in the program, he or she sets up an appointment with one of two specialists.
The specialists support smokers in their fight to stop smoking by tailoring a program to fit the student's special needs. They also decide on an official date to quit and which method to use.
Some of the ex-smokers featured on Butt Out experienced withdrawal symptoms like irritability, dizziness and cravings. They needed to use nicotine replacement therapy. Starter kits of nicotine replacement patches, gum and inhalants are provided to students free of charge. Zyban, a prescription drug that helps curb cravings is also available.
Dr. Shirley Haberman, Pitt's health education administrator, said that some students have a hard time learning to live without cigarettes.
"Don't be discouraged -- most students want to quit and have tried," said Haberman, Pitt's. "It's not unusual. It is very difficult to quit smoking."
When contacted between three and seven months after completing Q.U.I.T., 50 to 60 percent of students reported remaining tobacco free.
Some smokers quit without the program's assistance.
Senior Sean Gyros said that he was tired of waking up in the morning and feeling bad. So the anthropology major successfully quit cold turkey, for the first time in five years, last summer.
"It's a mental thing and I beat it, but if I would have had trouble I would have considered the Q.U.I.T. program," Gyros said.
The health education office promotes Q.U.I.T. in freshman studies seminars and the office also advertises regularly in The Pitt News, but Haberman said that word of mouth has proven the best promotion.