BY BILL WILLCOX
COURIER-TIMES STAFF WRITER
Piedmont Community College (PCC) took part in a nationwide campaign called “Kick Butts Day” on Wednesday, March 15, with nursing students manning booths and urging their peers to quit smoking.
The event was part of a larger health fair at the campus, held in conjunction with the American Cancer Society and College Campus Initiative. The event provided students with information on how to lead a healthy life through healthy habits. It was originally supposed to be held outside Building E but was moved indoors because of cold temperatures.
Although similar events were held across the state on Wednesday, the event had particular resonance at PCC which will go 100 percent tobacco free on August 1. Posters were set up along one wall of the student center, providing a wealth of information on the dangers of smoking.
According to one poster:
• Tobacco is responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000,000 people worldwide every year — that’s more than 450 people every hour.
• If you and two friends become regular smokers, odds are that one of you will die of a smoking related disease.
• If you smoke you will probably die about seven years earlier than your non-smoking friends.
• More people die from tobacco use than from car crashes, AIDS, alcohol abuse, murders, suicides and fires combined.
“The students did a ton of work,” said PCC spokesperson Beth Townsend. “They really got involved.”
Last November, the students also held an event to mark the Great American Smokeout. “They’ve gone all out this time,” Townsend said. “There is more information and guides to attract attention of students.”
There were also free “quit kits” for faculty, staff and students, as well as stress balls, imprinted with a telephone number to call for assistance quitting.
“Out main goal is to make people healthier,” Townsend said. “That is one reason for the policy to go tobacco free.”
The Carolina Baptists on Mission bus was also parked outside Building E, giving free screenings for heart disease, depression and diabetes.
PCC received two grants to support the initiative to go tobacco-free:
The first was a $13,102 grant from The American Cancer Society and CVS Health Foundation awarded in September, 2016, as part of their Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative.
The second was a $10,000 grant awarded on June 10, 2016, from Truth Initiative Smoke-Free College program.
Dawn Oakley, director of the Associate Degree Nursing Education program, oversees these grants to ensure that the funding is spent properly and that information about PCC campuses going tobacco-free in August 2017 is being shared with faculty, staff, and students. She has a committee to help with events (like Kick Butts Day) and publicity.
Alisa Montgomery, dean of Health Sciences and Human Services, also mentioned that she received a grant from the PCC Foundation through the Mini-Grant program. The $700 grant will help with health fair supplies, prizes for monthly health challenges, and healthy snacks for Lunch ‘N Learn programs focused on healthy living.
This month she set up a monthly challenge focused on water intake and daily steps. Next month she will encourage eating more fruits and vegetables.
While Wednesday’s event at PCC was oriented to college-age students, and older, the nationwide campaign was aimed at focusing attention on how tobacco companies are enticing kids with a growing market of sweet-flavored products such as electronic cigarettes and cigars. According to a press release, more kids now use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. In addition, more high school boys now smoke cigars than cigarettes.
The press release stated that tobacco companies spend $380 million annually on marketing in North Carolina, while tobacco use claims 14,200 lives a year in the state, while costing $3.81 billion annually in health care bills. Currently, 13.1 percent of North Carolina’s high school students smoke, the release stated.