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Great American Smokeout asks people to quit

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | NOVEMBER 19, 2010 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa community worked to "can"-cel cancer on the Pentacrest as part of National Cancer Awareness Day on Thursday.

Despite the chilly weather, the student-volunteer organization UI Colleges Against Cancer reached out to students, passing out fliers to raise lung-cancer awareness.

Students who passed by the table could either pledge to quit smoking for 24 hours or hand in their lighters or cigarettes to receive a canned beverage in return.

"If you receive this flier, you symbolize one of the many people all over the United States who has just been diagnosed with lung cancer," the flier read.

Though the original goal had been to hand out turkey sandwiches, a message for smokers to quit "cold turkey," the group turned to cans of soda pop.

Even though nobody officially pledged, UI sophomore and publicity chairwoman of the student organization, Caitlin Fry, is pleased with Thursday's turnout.

"We had a lot of people approach the table and ask for more information," she said.

For some students passing by, the cause was close to home.

"I've recently had a grandpa die of lung cancer," said 19-year-old Brittany Losh. "It's a terrible disease. It tears apart families and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. I think it's a good effort and will … help stop people from smoking."

Fry, too, knows the effects of cancer. Her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, and he is now a seventh-year survivor — a rarity, she said

The UI campus has been legally smokefree for the last two years as a result of the Smoke-Free Air Act of 2008.

Since then, UI Wellness has seen promising results in regards to the UI community's smoking habits.

Around 8 percent of UI faculty and staff indicated they were smokers in 2009 — a 1 percentage point decrease from 2007, according to the most recent UI Wellness Annual Report.

Results from a Health Iowa survey in 2009 showed 23.4 percent of UI students had smoked a cigarette in the previous 30 days, down from 29.8 percent in 2006.

For those seeking help to quit, services are available at the UI.

The UI offers one-on-one counseling, therapy, health coaching, and reimbursements for purchasing products to help quit are all available, said Megan Moeller, a coordinator for UI Wellness.

"I'm glad it's decreasing. Hopefully, we're helping out with that," said Dina Mendell, a UI junior who just joined the organization this semester and passed out fliers on the Pentacrest.

The organization collaborated with UI's Public Relations Student Society of America.

"Today was mostly awareness," said Dana Davidsen, a member of the public relations group and volunteer. "It's a very worthy cause."

Fry said the organization plans to do another tabling event later on in the academic year.

Possibly, a world-record sized game of flippy cup — with root beer — is in the works to raise money prior to April's Relay for Life event, Fry said.


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