Landmark College breathes life into Great American Smokeout

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On Thursday, Landmark College students headed to lunch will see 27 pairs of shoes in a row, leading up to the dining hall. It is not a random number. According to the Vermont Department of Health, about 27 Vermonters will die in the next 10 days from diseases caused by tobacco use.

The shoes representing those 27 people were provided by Karen Zamojski, store manager of Experienced Goods Thrift Store, which raises money for Brattleboro Area Hospice.

The display is one of several that are being set up by the college's Alcohol and Other Drug Committee and the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition, as part of the Great American Smokeout. The event is organized and promoted by the American Cancer Society each November.

Another display is based on a study by the World Health Organization, which determined that tobacco kills up to half of its users. Students will get gambling chips and the chance to spin a roulette wheel.

"My thought with the gambling chips," said Matthew Cherry, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor at Landmark College, "was (to ask students), `Do you want to gamble with your life?'"

If the wheel lands on an even number, they will get a mint, representing the menthol flavor of some cigarettes. If it lands on an odd number, the students "die" and cannot spin the wheel again.

Addiction Specialist and Prevention Coordinator Jeanine Bedard said she has a personal reason for being involved in the campaign.

"I have a family member who has emphysema from his years of heavy smoking," she said.

Students will also have a chance to watch a video of comedian John Oliver discussing how tobacco companies hampered African governments' efforts to reduce smoking. Information on how to get help from Liz Cooper, the college's LPN and Tobacco Treatment Specialist, will also be provided.

Bedard also expressed her concern about vaping.

"I have concern that students who vape don't have accurate information about it, and that they minimize the risks," said Bedard.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some of the largest tobacco companies have bought up the most popular vaping products in the last couple of years. Researchers at the University of North Carolina exposed lung cells to some of the flavorings used in popular vaping products, such as vanilla. These flavorings are harmless when swallowed, but were shown to kill lung cells, which were not evolved to metabolize them.

Vermonters who want to quit smoking in a class setting can get free help by calling Nancy Schaefer at the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital at 802-251-8456. Employers and community organizations can also contact Schaefer about on-site classes. Bedard said that her family member benefitted from such a class.

"He stopped smoking with the help of a support program. He is a very active person who lives a full life. He credits that group experience with helping him quit smoking."

Help, including free nicotine replacement therapy, can also be accessed from Vermont's 802Quits program by phone at 1-800- QUIT-NOW or online at www.802quits.org.

Rolf Parker can be contacted at rolf.bapc@gmail.com.


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