It is difficult to ignore the beaming smiles of 14 basketball players casually leaning against the bleachers. They could easily be mistaken for Abercrombie & Fitch models hanging out in Payne Whitney Gymnasium.
The posters endorsing a smoke-free lifestyle are up in Yale University Health Services and every residential college, outside dining halls and masters’ offices.
“Its all over the place, I’ve seen it almost 20 times,” gushed one sophomore who preferred to remain anonymous. “This is the first time I’ve noticed it’s a non-smoking ad –” she sheepishly admitted.
The first 19 times she saw the poster she thought it was advertising, “Uh — basketball?”
The posters, sponsored by UHS, are part of a campaign to encourage smokers to quit and would-be smokers never to begin.
Winning the 2002 Ivy League championship gave the team a high profile on campus and in the New Haven community. UHS decided to market this popularity and a representative from “Healthy Lungs at Yale” approached the coach to request the picture be taken last spring.
The team had no financial incentive to take the picture but came to a general consensus that they would do it anyway.
“None of us got paid; we just got the picture,” Josh Hill ’04 said. “We were happy to do it to help someone out.”
Most of the players are modest in their roles as the new poster children of non-smoking.
“It was a fun time. We had to do all sorts of random poses,” Basil Williams ’04 said. “I think the picture captures our different personalities.”
Although the majority of Yalies are indifferent or oblivious to the posters, reactions across campus ranged from mild amusement to downright skepticism.
“It’s weird, I mean, who advertises not smoking at college?” Tirzah Enumah ’05 said. “It seems really high school and I’m not sure if they’re all ‘smoke-free.'”
The only bong in the basketball team, however, is in last year’s team captain’s surname, which is why they are promoting a healthy smoke-free lifestyle at Yale.
“I made an early decision not to smoke because I also made an early decision to be an athlete to the best of my ability, which smoking would obviously inhibit,” said Ime Archibong ’03.
Despite some Yalies’ suspicions, the basketball team does not smoke anything. To most of the team members’ knowledge, no one has ever smoked cigarettes or marijuana.
“I’ve never smoked and nobody on the team smokes,” Hill said. “Well, nobody has ever smoked in front of me.”
As for other intoxicants, particularly of the keg party variety, the answer was the same across the board, and aptly summed up by Mark Lovett ’05.
“I don’t think I should comment that,” Lovett said.
Team Captain Chris Leanza ’03 agreed.
“You won’t see us going to a bar and getting hammered every night,” Leanza said.
Some team members expressed doubts about the success of the campaign.
“It’s like a joke, almost,” said Jerry Gauriloff ’05. “We know people aren’t going to listen to it.”
Leanza does not think that the posters will change the minds of college students.
“Yale students our own age do not see us as role models,” he said.
Archibong ’03 agreed, adding that support for the basketball team is stronger in the New Haven community than it is at Yale.
“I think [the posters] could be a lot more influential to the local community,” Archibong said.
Although the team members realize that most students will not change their lifestyles on the basis of the posters, they are glad that they put the message out there.
“We care about the community, not just basketball,” Leanza said.