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Friday, September 29, 2023

Healthy Gators holds event to help smokers quit

Although the word "smokeout" may carry certain conotations, the UF group Healthy Gators 2010 has decided to take the word literally.

The group will host the "The Great Gator Smokeout" today from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the Reitz Union Colonnade to encourage UF students, faculty and staff to stop smoking tobacco.

Healthy Gators 2010 created the event to localize "The Great American Smokeout" hosted by the American Cancer Society, said Jane Emmeree, a health promotion specialist for GatorWell.

Chris Machen, chairwoman of Healthy Gators 2010 and first lady of UF, will deliver a keynote speech at 12:15 p.m. UF mascots Albert and Alberta will also make appearances at the event.

About 200 to 300 people are expected to stop by during the day, with about 80 percent being students, Emmeree said.

Attendees at the event can fill out pledge cards committing to quit or help a friend fulfill the commitment no later than Jan. 15.

"For smoking, coming up with a specific quit date is helpful," Emmeree said.

She said people who create a plan to quit by picking a specific date, considering medication for cravings and getting help from a "quit coach" have the highest success rates.

Campaigns focused on weight loss or alcohol use do not use pledges, because those habits are usually not abstained from but modified, Emmeree said.

Specialists including a nurse practitioner, a representative from Alachua County and people from GatorWell will be available to address concerns such as medication options and behavioral components of kicking the habit, she said.

There will also be information about health issues related to smoking hookah, an increasingly popular activity, she said.

Based on UF surveys, about 13 percent of UF students have smoked in the last 30 days.

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Among students, graduating seniors have the greatest desire to quit since they are focused on entering the workforce and starting a new phase of life, Emmeree said.

Shanley Frey, a student public relations intern for Healthy Gators 2010, said a lot of people on campus are social smokers.

"I feel like people know that smoking is not healthy, but they may get wrapped up in the moment based on their social environment," she said.

Even though many UF students may not think smoking is cool, others might see it as going "along with drinking and a night out," she said.

Frey said she hopes smoking and non-smoking students gain information to create a tobacco-free environment on campus.

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