Wellness Center hosts smoking support group to help students reduce or quit nicotine usage

“Don’t be hard on yourself,” said Damiri. “It is a hard road coming to a group or just even talking about it is the first step and I commend everyone who has the guts to do it, because it’s a very vulnerable aspect to talk about." - Contributor / Khansa Samreen

The Student Wellness Center has started a new program called Breathe Easy Smoking Cessation Support Group. It is open to students, faculty, and staff who are looking to make a change in their tobacco use, either thinking of quitting or actively wanting to quit, or just want more information, support, and community. There is an opportunity of individualized cessation service for those seeking that, they will be referred to a higher level of care with community partners. 

Sam Damiri is a health educator at the Wellness Center and does drug counseling and screening. Damiri is a co-facilitator of the smoking cessation support group with Mackenzie Raymond, a tobacco treatment specialist in training. They’ll both run the group together. 

Damiri talks about how the group is for everyone, no matter what level you’re at and it is a community of uplifting each other.

“Our group is basically for every person, every level of use,” said Damiri. “So if you’re willing to quit, great. And if not, also good. We’re here to help every range of person who uses nicotine or any other tobacco products. Just either to get information, to quit, to refer out other outpatient programs, and just close knit community effort to help others.” 

The Breathe Easy Smoking Cessation Support Group just started this fall semester on September 12 and will hold their meetings every Tuesday at 2 p.m. 

Assistant Director of Health Innovation & Quality Assurance, Allie Pearce, came up with the idea and told Damiri over the summer. Damiri, who’s very involved with this type of work.

“I was thinking it was a great opportunity to help students get aware of their nicotine use,” said Damiri. “I know vaping is a big thing within the college population. It’s just to get the word out that there’s other alternatives than nicotine products.”

Participants have a safe place to talk, get information, and get step-by-step help on the level of nicotine or tobacco use they’re in without any force or burden.

“My co-facilitator and I really tell people that this is not like we’re going to rubber band you if you do use, this is more of we’re gonna try to work with you and your level and see where you fall. We’re more of a harm reduction than we are like a hardcore like quitting,” said Damiri.

The support group comes at a convenient time as well, as earlier this week, Rowan sent an announcement signed by Provost, Tony Lowman via email declaring Rowan a tobacco-free campus beginning January of 2024.

Damiri also talks about the difference between vape and cigarettes, and how they both affect the body very similarly. 

“There really is no like physical difference between vaping and smoking [cigarettes]. It’s still the same nicotine or tobacco or cannabis. It’s just more accessible for vaping because obviously it doesn’t smell like cigarettes and it’s flavors so it tastes better than traditional cigarettes, so it is more appealing to people to vape but physically and like what it does to your body is the same,” said Damiri.

According to the Rowan University Wellness Center website, it states how one vape pod has 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine which is equal to almost one pack of cigarettes. It also states, according to the Truth Initiative, that 63% of vape users that are ages of 15-24 believe they’re only vaping flavor and are not aware that they are also consuming nicotine. Damiri goes into detail about this misconception and how some vapes are considered more dangerous than cigarettes.

“It is just as dangerous as cigarettes and possibly even more dangerous than cigarettes, because of all the additive metals that they have and within the coils of whatever mod you’re using for vape. It really depends on like what you’re using but it’s still not healthy to have anything in your lungs,” said Damiri.

With all that being said, getting help or showing up to this event is the first step to a healthier life. Pearce and Damiri shared some advice on those thinking and/or wanting to quit and how the support group can help them.

“That it doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” said Pearce. “You can work on reducing your use for a time, or set a quit date if that works better for you. There are lots of ways to address smoking cessation.”

“Don’t be hard on yourself,” said Damiri. “It is a hard road coming to a group or just even talking about it is the first step and I commend everyone who has the guts to do it, because it’s a very vulnerable aspect to talk about. That’s why we’re running the group to really get students talking about it and being more comfortable sharing about their substances like vaping, nicotine, and tobacco use and obviously either alcohol and stuff like that, just to get students talking about it. Just to really feel like they’re not alone.”

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