Although recent reports show lower percentages of high school students smoking, the number of college smokers continues to rise, according to the University’s recent Student Life Survey.
It is now predicted that 30 percent of college students used tobacco at least once in the past 30 days, according to the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium website.
TTAC said that of the 15 million college smokers, about 1.7 million will die from smoking-related illnesses.
At the University, the Student Life Survey found that 21 percent of the University’s student population smokes.
Linda Thomas, program associate at the University’s Tobacco Consultation Service, said the number of college-age smokers is on the rise in the state of Michigan, as well as on campus.
“If we step back and look at the whole state and make some assumptions on what our students are doing based on other students, we would say that the smoking rate is going up,” Thomas said.
Thomas attributed the increase in the number of college smokers in part to fewer anti-smoking campaigns and more frequent smoking in Hollywood movies. However, she said she feels that the prevention programs “are back on track.”
“The media is getting it out that it’s not cool to smoke anymore. It’s not cool to be high,” Thomas said.
She also warned social smokers that even casual smoking is dangerous because of the addictive nicotine.
“Playing with cigarettes, even just while they are drinking, they are leaving themselves open for a lifelong habit that is really hard to give up,” she said.
Statistics published on the TTAC website show that of the 70 percent of college students who try smoking, 41.5 percent become regular smokers.
Contrasting with the higher number of college smokers is the downward trend in smoking in America’s high schools.
Twenty-five percent of 12th graders, 16 percent of 10th graders and 9 percent of 8th graders reported they had smoked in the past 30 days, according to the University study.
The percentage of 8th and 10th graders who said they smoked in the past month has decreased by 50 percent, and the number of 12th-grade smokers has decreased by one-third since the 1990s.
One social smoker, a recent University graduate who wished to remain anonymous, said she started smoking in ninth grade when she was introduced to it at a party with older high school students.
“It was not until I was 16 or 17 that I started to smoke continuously,” she said.
Today she smokes in social settings and smokes less than a pack a week.
“I am quitting because it smells bad and it is not healthy for you,” she said.
For those interested in quitting smoking the University offers both group and individual quit programs for faculty and students.
A Tobacco Consultation Service program started last week and is still accepting members. The group meets today from 12 to 1 p.m. and is open to students, staff and faculty. New programs start every month and are free of charge.
More information can be obtained through the Tobacco Consultation Service, located on North Ingalls next to the School of Nursing.