Four years after taking her first puff of a cigarette, LSA sophomore Amanda Bart says it”s too hard for her to quit.
Bart is not alone, according to a Student Life survey taken in 1999, which said 28 percent of University students smoked cigarettes within 30 days of answering their questions.
“I started because of a friend (for) stupid reasons,” Bart said.
She added that smoking is a relief from stress.
“Now I can”t stop. All of my friends smoke. My roommate smokes. It”s hard to quit,” she said.
Despite a general downward trend in the number of smokers in the United States since the 1960s, the number of adolescent and young adult smokers has continued to rise since the 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Most students at the University think smoking is pretty harmful for their health,” said researcher and Nursing Prof. Carol Boyd. “But, despite that, students said they still smoke.”
Boyd and fellow researcher Sean McKay conduct the Student Life survey, of which the 2001 version will be released in March.
“We expect that 2001 results will reflect the national trend of college students,” Boyd said. “Typically, people age 20, 21 and 22 have a higher smoking rate.”
She added that this year”s data will likely vary by class, based on historical trends.
Recent surveys show a general decline in the number of adolescents and young adults who smoke, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse website.
To promote this decline, educators at the University Health System continue to look at new ways to facilitate students trying to quit smoking and ways of encouraging students to not start.
“We try to focus on two different areas, prevention and cessation,” said Marsha Benz, a health educator. “Most students aren”t heavily addicted, but they are in a spot where they decided whether or not to go into hard core addiction. It”s easier to quit now then when they”re smoking two packs a day.”
“Health benefits come very quickly,” added Benz”s coworker Carol Tucker, also a health educator. Benefits include fresher breath, whiter teeth and more money to spend on other things, Tucker said.
For students trying to quit, UHS offers special kits called “Quit Kits,” which include a variety of items to help students kick the habit. The clinic also provides nicotine replacement products.
Health educators are also implanting a new Internet-based service that provides tailored messages for individuals trying to quit smoking. Locally-based HealthMedia developed the system.
“People make a plan that can be used while trying to quit and after,” Tucker said. “It”s a tailored way because of the personal information provided through very specific questions.”
Inquiries include details about a person”s smoking habit and barriers standing in the way of them quitting. Ongoing promotions to discourage students from smoking and encourage quitting are organized by the Social Norms Media Campaign, a group developed at UHS, which uses print material, bus signs and flyers featuring its icon, a troll, to get their message across.
“It is a fun way to get people to look at the message,” Benz said. “This year”s theme is “How do you really feel about smoking,” so we”re taking photographs of students with yucky faces about smoking.”
The upcoming Great American Smoke Out on Nov. 15 also provides education and encouragement to people trying to quit.