Maggie Powell sat outside Downing University Center last Thursday begging passers-by for their cigarettes.
But the senior from Little Rock, Ark., didn’t want to smoke. She was attempting to persuade others to do the same and offered turkey sandwiches for their smokes.
Powell was just one of the students and staff members of the Health and Wellness Committee who participated in the Great American Smokeout, held annually on the third Thursday in November.
Workers were posted at various “smoking hot spots” around campus attempting to coax smokers to trade in their cigarette packs for a gift certificate for a free Subway six-inch turkey sandwich. The cigarettes were tossed in the garbage.
According to Jeanne Lady, chairperson of the Health and Wellness Committee, the “Trade Cigarettes for a Free ‘Cold Turkey’ Sandwich” program is something the Bowling Green Health Department has been promoting for the past couple of years, but this is the first year Western has participated.
The Great American Smokeout program started at 10 a.m. at both DUC and the Thompson Complex, and later at Rodes-Harlin Hall.
Powell, who staffed the DUC booth, said only one student had traded in his cigarettes for a sandwich by 11 a.m.
“We’re not really expecting people to quit smoking,” Powell said.
Instead, she said members of Health Services were there to get people to think about quitting and to offer information and support for those who wanted to kick the nicotine habit.
“It’s a bad time of year (for people to give up their cigarettes),” she said, referring to pending finals, and the holiday season.
Kathryn Steward, WKU Health Services Coordinator, said at the end of the day both the DUC and Thompson booths collected a total of six cigarette packs, but had approximately 40 people asking for information and survival kits.
Steward was concerned with the number of those who participated in the Smokeout.
“I would’ve liked to have seen more people,” Steward said.
She said they had more people commit themselves to quitting last year when there was no incentive for participating.
“Those cigarettes and lighters must have been precious,” Steward said.
She also acknowledged that quitting the habit of smoking is a hard issue to address.
Brochures and stickers that adorned the message, “Kiss me, I don’t smoke,” were blowing every which way in the winter wind and rain that later sent the Smokeout staffers at Rodes indoors.
Pictures of camels and rabbits puffing on cigarettes sat next to the trash can where individuals were to throw out their cigarettes. The lid on top of the trash can bore the message “The Great American Smokeout; Now that spells relief.”
“I think this (Great American Smokeout) helps to inspire kids to quit, but probably just for today,” said Russellville sophomore Teco Dickerson, a non-smoker.
A survival kit was also made available for those who stopped by the Smokeout displays. The kit included a stress ball (to keep hands occupied), a “when I get the urge” replacement pencil, topless and unable-to-light matches, candy to suck on and a straw to chew on for those plagued by oral fixations.
Powell encouraged those who are attempting to quit their addictive smoking habit not to get discouraged.
“It’s a long process,” Powell said.