By Doris Christelis, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Danielle Fucci, a junior at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough, has never smoked a cigarette, and she never will. Fucci made this promise to herself as she watched three loved ones succumb to lung cancer over the past few years. She lost another dear family friend to cancer just one week before this year's Great American Smokeout, motivating her to take ownership of that event at her school.
According to the American Lung Association, every day, almost 3,900 children under 18 years of age try their first cigarette, and more than 950 of them will become new, regular daily smokers.?Half of them will ultimately die from their habit.
At Algonquin, Jean Fedak, Health and Fitness Department chair, admires Fucci's commitment to preventing fellow students from trying that first cigarette.
“Danielle is highly motivated to encourage her peers to think twice before picking up this unhealthy habit,” Fedak said “She is passionate about anti-smoking and did an amazing job getting the word out at our school.”
The Great American Smokeout, an event run nationally since the 1970s by the American Cancer Society, was held Nov. 15. Students at Algonquin could not avoid the anti-smoking messages school-wide that day. There were signs in the hallways, announcements over the school intercom, and a long chain of pledges hung around the cafeteria, signed by students and staff, to not smoke that day and to try to commit to quitting if they do smoke. Fucci's peers could also pick up informational brochures on the dangers of smoking.
Despite some negative reactions from students who told her she was wasting her time and that nobody was going to listen to her, a determined Fucci committed herself to the campaign.
“I enjoyed getting the word out at my school about how dangerous smoking really is. Having a voice in this campaign was important to me, not just being in the shadows, particularly after all the losses I have experienced due to the choices those I love made to smoke.”
The most touching moment of the day for Fucci was when a friend she had not talked to in some time sat next to her at the Smokeout booth telling her how awful it had been as a child to watch her father die from lung cancer. This reminded Fucci of the personal toll smoking takes, even on students” lives, and how critical it is for smokers to quit and others not to start.
“If I can get just one person to not start smoking or to quit, then this was all worth it,” Fucci said.
The Great American Smokeout is held annually on the third Thursday of November. The American Cancer Society marked the 37th?Great American Smokeout?Nov. 15 by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. By quitting – even for one day – smokers take an important step toward the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, yet according to the American Cancer Society about 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes – nearly one in every five adults.