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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMB Looks To Be SmokeFree

At the side entrance of McCormack Hall, on its picnic tables and lining its concrete ledges, under the weather-forgiving cover of Wheatley, and in the inlets of stairway exits to the Science Center, smokers at UMass Boston congregate, cough, and panhandle for cigarettes and lighters. Among this group one would not be hard-pressed to find someone who has tried to quit, wants to quit, or has just relapsed back into that five-dollar-a-pack fog of existence.

According to a UMass Boston/American Collegiate Health Association poll identifying student behavior over a 30 day period, 18.2 percent of male students and 14.8 percent of female students reported having smoked cigarettes from 10 days to all 30 days of the sampled month. This is not a large percentage in relation to the 62.8 percent of males and 62.4 percent of female UMB students who claim to have never smoked cigarettes.

However, for those making up that tar-lunged minority interested in taking another stab at beating the habit, University Health Services wellness program is offering that chance, free of charge. Beginning last spring the Wellness Center offers a smoking cessation program open to all members of the UMass Boston community.

Linda Jorgensen, director of Health Education and Wellness, who kicked her own nicotine habit 15 years ago, admits that quitting smoking is not always a simple task. “Everybody’s smoking is different,” says Jorgensen. “How anyone goes about quitting is very individual to them,” she adds.

“Changing anything is a process,” says Jorgensen. “When you skip a step, you usually are not very successful.” The SmokeFree@UMB program allows individuals to tailor their smoking cessation as they see fit. Smokers hoping to quit may choose to meet with Jorgensen, who completed training as a tobacco treatment specialist through the Behavioral Health Department at UMass Medical School, on an ongoing basis or get referred to an off-campus organization.

Through the program, levels of nicotine dependency, craving patterns, smoking history, situations in which individuals are most likely to smoke, and previous experiences with quitting are taken into account when choosing a plan of attack.

Further, the effectiveness of supplements to the quitting process such as prescription medication, and the nicotine patch, gum, lozenges, and inhaler are weighed on an individual basis. Despite the fact that the program is free, these further costs fall upon the individual. Jorgensen admits that these aids in the process may be costly. But she adds that, “They’re less expensive than smoking in the long-run.”

Since its inception only a handful of the UMB community have taken advantage of the free service. Group sessions and peer support had been among the goals of the program, however the demand has not been conducive to that setting thus far. Jorgensen confesses that the turnout has not been what she and Health Education and Wellness had hoped. “Part of it is just people not knowing that it’s here,” she says.

More information on the program will be available at the Health Education and Wellness department’s information tables in McCormack Hall this Thursday, November 18. In conjunction with the Great American Smokeout, Health Education staff and student interns will not only be manning a table, but distributing health information handouts, and smoking cessation-related giveaways such as stress sticks, bracelets, and faux matchbooks.

“People are always interested,” says Jorgensen. “And people who have quit always have interesting stories,” says Jorgensen of the annual event. “We all know smoking is a bad idea…There’s an open window and opportunities here, and it’s like ‘maybe I’m more ready today than I was yesterday.”

Those interested in SmokeFree@UMB can visit Health Education & Wellness on the second floor of the Campus Center or call Linda Jorgensen at (617) 287-5680.