More college students smoking

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Courtney Klemm

During her free time, Ashley Cragg, junior in LAS, can often be found smoking one cigarette out of the half a pack she consumes daily.

“I started as a social smoker in high school,” Cragg said. “The next thing you know, I’m addicted. But I like it. I like smoking and I don’t care (about harmful effects).”

According to the University of Michigan’s recent Student Life Survey, the number of college smokers is continuing to rise. It is now predicted that about 30 percent of college students used tobacco at least once in the past 30 days, according to the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium Web site.

Ilene Harned, coordinator of the alcohol and other drugs office at McKinley Health Center, said that although the University has lower rates than the national average for those who have smoked in the past 30 days, the percentages for 2004 are higher than those in 2003.

30.6 percent of University students surveyed in 2004 said they had smoked in the past 30 days, as compared to 26.4 in 2003, Harned said. However, she did note that these rates were down from 33.4 percent in 1999.

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“There are many social and recreation smokers,” Harned said. “They think it’s easy to quit, but once they get to a certain point, it’s hard to stop.”

Cragg attributed the rising percentages to overall growing rates of smokers.

“I think there’s a bigger population of smokers in general,” she said. “Plus a lot of freshmen come to college and start. Alcohol and cigarettes go hand in hand.”

Harned said many smokers who come to McKinley were already noticing short-term effects of cigarette use.

“We’ve seen an increase in physical health problems,” she said. “More have asthma and respiratory problems. One reason students want to quit is their physical condition isn’t as good.”

However, Harned said, quitting is not just about the physical withdrawals. Cigarettes also become psychologically addictive and habitual. They are more complicated than people think, she said.

Cragg said she felt most young smokers are aware of the dangers of smoking but don’t give it a second thought.

“I don’t like getting lectured about it because I know it’s bad for me and it could kill me,” she said. “I’m 21 years old. I’m not dumb to it. My grandpa died of cancer from smoking all his life. It’s not like I haven’t seen what it’s done to people.”

Some students feel strongly about not participating in the popular habit despite temptations at social scenes.

“It never really appealed to me,” said Jonathan Bentz, senior in ACES. “My parents had me try it when I was younger, so I would have a bad taste of it.”

Bentz said he thinks campaigns and programs are not going to decrease smoking rates until people decide personally not to smoke.

“People are going to do it no matter what,” Bentz said. “You can show them pictures of (cancerous) lungs or rotting teeth, but it’s not going to affect people all the same way. We have the right to choose how we live our lives.”