Photo: Connor McCourtney
The recent sleet, rain and snow persuade most students and faculty to remain within the warmth of campus buildings. But for some, a few daily ventures out into the cold is common place.
Even though Drake University has been a smoke-free campus since July 1, 2008, it’s still hard for some students on campus to kick the addiction, and it’s difficult for any observer to miss the piles of cigarette butts gathering in gutters beneath the melting piles of snow.
Most college students today have grown up in an era where they are well informed of the dangers of smoking, yet some continue the habit. Senior Jacob Myhre said he smokes four to five cigarettes a day. He also added that he has a strong desire to quit smoking.
“I’ve always been an athletic guy, and cigarettes are kind of harmful to that and also, I don’t want to want [a cigarette] all the time.”
Jacob is far from alone in this habit. According to livestrong.com, “about 13.8 percent of college students smoked cigarettes in the 30 days before they were surveyed and another 15 percent smoked cigarettes before that, according to the American College Health Association’s survey. Males are more likely to have smoked cigarettes than females — 31.3 to 27.3 percent.”
Even the increasing price of cigarettes is not enough of a deterrent for some smokers. As quoted in a Daily Finance article ran on July 8 of last year, Randall Kuhn, director of the Global Health Affairs Program at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School, said that “people often downgrade brands [when tobacco prices rise]. Cigarette companies are usually prepared with a lower brand, in case you need to downgrade.”
Similarly, the rising cost of cigarettes has not had a drastic change on Myhre’s behavior.
“My health is more important to me than any type of price, but the rising price of cigarettes has not changed my behavior,” Myhre said. “It’s more of something you complain about while you smoke.”
One thing that has affected all people who smoke at Drake is the smoking ban. When the ban was instituted in 2008, it prohibited anyone from smoking on any Drake University property by Iowa law.
Senior Danielle Ford does not smoke but she said, “I feel that new laws prohibiting smoking in certain places go a long way towards limiting the amount of smokers overall.”
Debra De Laet, global public health professor and professor of politics and international relations, said that even though more public places are now smoke-free, she thinks that there are more people smoking now than in her generation.
She said that anti-tobacco campaigns were huge while she was in college, but students were mostly “social smokers.” They went out to bars to have cigarettes and now that many buildings and campuses are smoke-free like Drake, people who do smoke are now more visible because they must go out onto public streets to have a smoke.
However, it is important to note the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of 2009, 49.1 percent of adults who smoked had a GED diploma, and 33.6 percent of adults who smoked had between 9 and 11 years of education. Conversely, only 11.1 percent of adults who smoked in 2009 had an undergraduate college degree, and 5.6 percent of adult smokers held a graduate degree.
From these statistics, one could gather that college students are less likely to smoke than those who do not go on to pursue higher education. Furthermore, since more people are getting college degrees now than in the past, there is a lot of hope for the future.
According to a Bloomberg Business article posted on Nov. 21, 2005,2005, “85 percent of adult Americans have at least a high school degree today, up from just 25 percent in 1940. Similarly, 28 percent have a college degree, a fivefold gain over this period.”
Just as the amount of people who go on to higher education has changed as well. Myhre, De Laet and Ford all agree that obesity could be a great concern for our generation.
“Smoking is certainly a pressing issue for college students,” De Laet said. “I honestly wonder whether food and access to healthy food choices is a bigger issue for many students.”
Myhre also thinks that the issue of unhealthy eating habits takes high priority.
“I think obesity and fast food are huge concerns for my generation,” he said. “But for me, personally, smoking is probably the top health concern.”
Ford said she feels her generation has been informed well enough to understand the risks of smoking, and she does not like seeing people smoking on campus.
“I feel as though sexually transmitted diseases and obesity may take a greater toll on our generation, but when I see people smoking, I do get personally offended,” Ford said. “I saw my grandfather suffer from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) over the span of my entire life and I think it’s ignorant for my generation to continue smoking because we have more education than the generations before us.”
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