Kicking butts

Presentation raises awareness on dangers of smoking

By Melissa Proulx
On March 21, 2014

In the dimly lit Granite State Room on Tuesday stood a reminder, a memorial and a warning.

This year's Kick Butt's Day presentation put on by the Substance Awareness through Functional Education (SAFE) program featured an elaborate maze of shoes, meant to represent the 1,700 who died of smoking-related causes in the past year alone. The shoes varied in both color and style, from young children's slippers to workmen's boots to strappy heels, a representation that anyone can suffer the negative effects of smoking.

"This is just one state in one year," Melissa Garvey, a health educator and substance abuse counselor for UNH Health Services, said. Garvey organized the event. "People start smoking and I don't think they realize how quickly they can become addicted."

For many, including Peter Welch, a health educator for UNH's Health Services, it was the variety that had the most impact.

"When I was walking through, I saw a pair of shoes that looked like something my aunt - who became sick after years of smoking - owned," he said. "It's a very powerful display, I'm so impressed. It really gets you to stop and think about your life."

For many students who attended, the reaction was the same.

"I think it came together very nicely," Kierra Poulis, a freshman involved in the program that helped Garvey design the final form of the labyrinth, said. "It definitely has a big impact."

Kick Butts Day is a national anti-smoking campaign put on each year to help bring awareness to the detrimental effects smoking can have and to inspire youths to "stand up, speak out, and seize control against Big Tobacco," according to its website.

Garvey said that this year's exhibit was designed to be as educational as possible in order to bring awareness to the problem, with cards placed throughout the maze, providing travelers with facts on tobacco history, policy, health risks and statistics, as well as general information as labyrinths themselves.

"We used the design of a seven circuit chartres for our maze," Garvey said, meaning that there were seven different rings that made up the maze. "It's makes the walk like a ceremonial journey, which is something we wanted to incorporate into the memorial."

For her, the maze gave the exhibit a "solemn and reverent atmosphere" that showed the magnitude of the loss, while the gradation of the shoes "gave hope for the future generations."

Planning for the monument began after Kelsey Sobel, a UNH master of social work graduate, suggested that Garvey team up with Breath New Hampshire, a non-profit public health agency whose mission is to eliminate lung disease in New Hampshire as well as improve overall quality of life for residents. The agency had put on presentations similar to this one and hoped that UNH's would be one that could be duplicated across the country in hopes to continually bring awareness to the issue.

Each day, more than 3,200 Americans under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. Another 2,100 become daily smokers. Throughout the nation, tobacco use kills approximately 5.4 million per year and, if the trend continues, this could add up to one billion deaths in the 21st century. 

Throughout the room were information booths, featuring helpful tips, tricks and alternative practices, like meditation, to help quit smoking from Breathe New Hampshire, Health Services and Healthy UNH, a campus wide initiative that encourages the University's staff, students, and faculty to make healthy choices while simultaneously decreasing health care costs.

The entire presentation came together after three hours of work over two days and is acting as a pilot for a potentially traveling display for Breathe New Hampshire, who provided all the shoes for the monument.

"We've had a wonderful outpouring of support from the fraternities and sororities," Garvey said, who received help from the Phi Mu Delta, Delta Xi Phi, Alpha Phi, Alpha Phi Omega and Lambda Chi chapters to help set up and break down the monument. "We are so proud."

In the past, SAFE has put on other campus wide events, including alcohol prevention programs like pancakes on Boulder Field during Homecoming and pre-concert pizza parties, such as the ones held before the Tiesto and Kendrick Lemar concerts. 

SAFE's spring events will feature a showing of the documentary "The Anonymous People" about the over 23 million Americans experiencing long-lasting recovery from alcohol and drug addictions. The film will be shown at the MUB Theater on Tuesday, April 22 as a part of SAFE's Prescription Drug Awareness campaign.

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