Augustana, Community Partners Celebrate Great American Smokeout

Katelyn Graber, president of the Augustana Student Association

Katelyn Graber, president of the Augustana Student Association, speaks at the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout celebration, held on campus on Thursday, Nov. 16.

Augustana University hosted community partners on campus Thursday to celebrate the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout and to share information about the benefits of quitting tobacco use.

The Great American Smokeout, now in its 42nd year, encourages people who use tobacco to make a plan to quit and promotes resources that will support their decision.

“The Great American Smokeout is a great opportunity for someone who is contemplating quitting smoking to commit to a date,” said Tim Bjordal, chair of the American Cancer Society South Dakota State Leadership Board. “It’s a big, meaningful step. Most people who quit can name the exact date they used tobacco for the last time.”

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, added Bjordal, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer.

“Smoking is responsible for nearly one in three cancer deaths,” he said. “Smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes are just as dangerous.”

At Augustana, the health and well-being of students, faculty, staff and campus guests are a top priority, said AU President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. That's why the campus is tobacco-free.

“We know that tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States, and we know that addiction to tobacco products often begins with our youth and young adults. That's why it's so important that we support and implement smoke-free policies at our university," Herseth Sandlin said.

Katelyn Graber, president of the Augustana Student Association, agreed.

"We support the efforts of our partners here today as we celebrate the Great American Smokeout. Use this day to enjoy our smoke-free environment here at Augustana, or as the day you make a plan to quit smoking. You’ll be one step closer toward a healthier life and reducing your risk of chronic disease," Graber said.

According to Dr. Paul Amundson, member of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee and Sioux Falls Board of Health, tobacco use is also a leading cause of heart disease and respiratory illness.

“We have long known the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke,” said Amundson. “Since the Surgeon General’s report on the connection between smoking and disease more than 50 years ago, there have been countless studies affirming the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Research shows that people who use tobacco are most successful in kicking the habit when they have some means of support, both from other people and from the environment.

The Great American Smokeout is a great way for people to take that first step to quit, said Jill Franken, public health director for the City of Sioux Falls.

“The health impacts of tobacco use cannot be overstated,” she said. “There is no such thing as a safe level of tobacco use or exposure. Seven years ago, our state voted to eliminate smoking indoors. After the clean indoor air law passed, we saw a decrease in heart attack hospitalization rates and restaurants and bars flourished. This past May, the city passed an ordinance regulating smoking and tobacco use on city property. Each step that we can take will have a positive effect on those that use tobacco and wish to quit, and we can keep kids from ever starting to use tobacco.”

The Great American Smokeout is an opportunity for individuals to connect with resources that can help them quit for a day, and then quit for good.

Smoking cessation support includes nicotine replacement products, counseling, stop-smoking support groups, telephone smoking cessation hotlines, prescription medicine to lessen cravings, guidebooks, and encouragement and support from friends and family members. Using two or more of these measures together works better than using any one of them alone.

The South Dakota QuitLine, recognized as one of the most successful cessation hotlines in the country, can be accessed at no charge online or by calling 1.866.SD.QUITS (1.866.737.8487).