Thursday, May 19, 2011

Striking up conversations about smoking

“I’ve been affected by smoking since the day I was born,” says David Latov, a first-year medical student at Emory. “I never got to meet my grandpa on my mom’s side because he smoked his entire life and died of lung cancer when she was seven months pregnant with me.”

Latov is among the many people talking about how smoking has affected their lives, as the university considers the feasibility of becoming a tobacco-free campus, effective this fall.

“The message isn’t that if you smoke you’re a bad person,” Latov says. “We need to acknowledge that smoking has real consequences and that everyone’s affected, not just the people that smoke.”

Linda Rosen, a business office manager at Emory’s Wesley Woods Center, recently graduated from the university’s smoking cessation program: For the third time.

“I learned the hard way that I can’t smoke ‘sometimes,’” Rosen says. “I really now am a non-smoker.”

An epiphany for her was writing a letter to cigarettes. “It was basically a good-bye letter, which was painful and heartfelt because smoking had been there for me,” Rosen says, adding that she is glad to finally feel free of the need to light up.

“One of the things that people often don’t associate with smoking is the environmental impacts,” says Ciannat Howett, director of Emory’s office of sustainability.

“Smoking is the leading cause of deforestation,” she says. “In Brazil alone, about 60 million trees every year are consumed just for tobacco production. “

Tobacco requires a lot of chemicals and fertilizer that lead to ground water and surface water contamination, she adds. “Cigarette butts alone are highly toxic and non-biodegradable. Every year about 1.7 billion tons are contributed to our oceans, rivers and streams.”

Click here if you would like to weigh in on the idea of a tobacco-free Emory.

How college shapes health behaviors

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