Playing into Texans’ love for Mexican food, UT’s Tobacco Free Campus, or TFC, program offered T-shirts, pins and phone wallets emblazoned with the motto “Tacos, not Tobacco” to smokers in exchange for their personal tobacco products at Tuesday’s Great American SmokeOut Carnival.
Staff and student smokers participated in the program’s third annual “trade in and trade up” activity, with many non-smokers also taking advantage of the opportunity to educate themselves and win prizes in the process, said Dinda Aryaputri, TFC volunteer and public health junior.
“There are many health benefits to quitting,” Aryaputri said. “If you quit cold turkey then you instantly reap the benefits. There will be lower risk for lung cancer, heart disease (and) respiratory (problems).”
Civil engineering junior April Collette, who traded cigarettes for a T-shirt and inflatable lounger, said she was excited about the quirky, taco-themed items.
“I used to smoke, so I truly do want to promote (tobacco-free living) to everyone,” Collette said.
Although the promise of prizes helped draw students to the event, Aryaputri said she wanted participants to come away from the experience with more than just a new T-shirt. She said she wanted to engage them in conversation about the realities of smoking, such as how smokers in the U.S. spend over $2,000 a year on cigarettes.
Collette said the event opened her eyes to the cost and health risks associated with smoking.
“Some of my friends still smoke, and I literally cannot convince them to stop smoking,” Collette said. “I will definitely pass on the information (the volunteers) gave me to (my friends).”
Although UT-Austin has been a tobacco-free campus since 2012, TFC volunteer LaShaun Oyibo said she still occasionally sees students smoking on campus.
“It definitely annoys me whenever I see someone smoking on campus, because not only are they violating the policy and putting themselves in danger, but they’re also putting other people in danger,” public health junior Oyibo said.
Aryaputri, who said she also is dismayed by continued smoking on campus, acknowledged that putting an end to smoking is no easy task.
“We know that it’s hard to quit so we’re trying to support (smokers) as much as we can,” Aryaputri said. “Studies show that smoking has decreased overall since the ’60s, and I think we are really on the path to decimating smoking in the future if we continue to spread awareness like we are today.”