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University provides support to help students fight stress and quit tobacco

April 29, 2013

According to the 2012 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 99 percent of lifetime tobacco users start before the age of 26; nearly 3,800 young people become new smokers every day.

The report provides compelling evidence that prevention and intervention programs targeting youth, especially college students, can be key to reducing the numbers drastically and improving health and well-being.

Beginning Aug. 1, Arizona State University will join more than 800 colleges and universities nationwide in becoming a tobacco-free campus. The university is committed to providing support and resources to students, faculty and staff who wish to quit tobacco and lead healthier lives.

Eric Anger, the director of pharmacy and a tobacco cessation specialist at ASU Health Services, says the Tobacco-Free Initiative is being spearheaded by the student advocacy group Health and Counseling Student Action Committee (HCSAC). The new tobacco-free campus policy was developed in collaboration with students, staff, faculty and ASU administration.

“More than 86 percent of Arizona State University students don’t smoke and 92 percent don’t use tobacco,” Anger says. “The tobacco-free campus initiative lets us recommit ourselves to supporting a culture of health for our students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

Anger, who has been a tobacco cessation counselor at ASU for more than seven years, says peer pressure and coping with stress are the two main motivators of tobacco use among college students. He encourages student tobacco users to seek advice and help as soon as they start thinking about quitting.

“I ask students to think about their motivation for both using and quitting tobacco,” Anger says. “Quitting can be a short or a long process, but patience and determination are key to its success. Users are required to eliminate cigarettes and other triggers from their surroundings, and we help them replace tobacco use with healthier habits.”

He says the university provides a variety of resources to students who wish to quit tobacco.

“ASU Health Services holds tobacco-cessation workshops for students on a regular basis,” he says. “We also support students who wish to quit independently by providing them with medication or referring them to off-campus tobacco-cessation organizations.”

The university provides students covered under its medical insurance policy with free tobacco cessation medication. Students covered by other health insurance companies are encouraged to check with their providers for similar benefits. Information regarding community partners that provide free resources is also available.

Anger says, along with medication, students can also practice alternative methods of lowering stress, such as physical activity, acupuncture and psychotherapy.

“Students are referred to psychotherapy counseling as part of the quitting process,” Anger says. “Depending on an individual’s preference and needs, these sessions can either be one-on-one or part of group counseling workshops. They are crucial to the process of successfully quitting tobacco.”

In addition to the resources available at ASU Health Services, students will receive extra support during finals week to fight stress. ASU Wellness will host the Well Devils stress-free zones during late-night finals “breakfast” on all four campuses Wednesday, May 1.

Karen Moses, director of ASU Wellness, says the late-night finals breakfast and the stress-free zones are a long-running ASU tradition.

“Finals week can be very stressful and may lead to increased tobacco use,” Moses says. “The breakfast and stress-free zones help students unwind and relax, and connect with friends and classmates. The stress-free zones feature services such as chair massages, acupuncture therapy, guided meditation sessions and biofeedback therapy free of cost.”

Anger says the key to successfully quitting tobacco is to keep trying even after multiple failures. He also suggests student tobacco users reach out to their friends for support and encouragement.

“There is nothing better than friends helping a friend quit tobacco,” Anger says. “Even activities such as blogging or connecting with others who are going through the same struggles help a tobacco user feel less isolated and more motivated.”

Information regarding the ASU Tobacco-Free Initiative is available at

ASU students who wish to quit tobacco can visit