Boynton helps students kick the habit

An annual program is helping smokers quit before next year’s smoking ban.

by Roy Aker

While the University of Minnesota is moving toward a smoking ban next fall, Boynton Health Service is pushing all tobacco users to nix the habit this month.

More than 200 University students, faculty and staff have signed on with Boynton Health Service’s Quit and Win program, which incentivizes kicking tobacco use through free counseling, two weeks of nicotine patches and a chance to win gift cards by completing the program.

Boynton has offered the program since the 2004-05 school year, director of public health and communications Dave Golden said. But this year, smokers aren’t required to take part in a study on quitting programs, and Golden said this has boosted the number of participants.

If participants can remain tobacco-free for the entire month, they have a shot at winning $2,000, $1,000 or $500 in Amazon gift cards. Boynton employees will use a urine test to verify that participants were tobacco users and have stopped for a month.

Ferdinand Schlapper, Boynton’s director and chief health officer, said the program requires participants to have a tobacco-free friend sponsor their quitting attempt. He said this has been the program’s most effective piece since it started nine years ago.

The Quit and Win program coincides with the University’s goal of becoming a smoke-free campus next year, Golden said.

“If you’re going to do something like go smoke-free, you do want to make sure there’s plenty of opportunities for people to quit if they want to,” he said.

Alex Barry, a philosophy and history junior, said he’s tried to quit cigarettes “cold turkey” twice but couldn’t break the habit. Barry, a program participant, said the free nicotine replacement therapy offered by Quit and Win is more of an incentive than the prizes.

A two-week supply of patches can cost more than $40, he said, while two weeks’ worth of nicotine gum can total $30.

Quitting without patches or gum is much harder because of the lack of nicotine intake, he said.

“If you’re quitting without resources, you want to [smoke] 24/7, because you’re completely deprived of any nicotine,” he said.

While using patches he got from Boynton, Barry said he hasn’t felt like he needed a cigarette
for two days.

Child psychology senior Justine Smith said smokers at the University get a bad rap and it’s important to know most want to quit.

“With trying to be a smoke-free campus, the school should be providing resources like this,” she said. “It’s a great
program.”

She said smokers she knows are often alone in their attempts to quit, so a program like Quit and Win could make their attempts more effective.

Although smoking rates among adults in the U.S. have declined in the last decade, Smith said it’s still prevalent.

“You go to a party, and people will sometimes still smoke,” she said. “It’s still a problem.”

About 21 percent of Minnesota college students said they had used tobacco within the last month, while about 9 percent used it daily, according to Boynton’s 2012 College Student Health Survey. Of those who smoked within the last month, nearly 39 percent don’t consider themselves smokers.

Golden said some people might have signed up for Quit and Win thinking they aren’t addicted and will be able to give up tobacco for a month, but smoking can “sneak up” on those who feel they aren’t addicted.

“For some, it’s the first time they realize, ‘Wow, I really can’t make it for a month,’” he said.

Golden said at least half of participants have stopped using tobacco each year of Boynton’s
program.

Even if someone in the program doesn’t reach the goal of an entire tobacco-free month, Golden said, “multiple quit attempts are really important.”

Golden said that by continually offering tobacco users ways to quit, they have an increased chance of breaking the habit.

Final winners of the Quit and Win program will be announced Dec. 13.