When walking around the St. Edward’s University campus one is bound to run into more than a few smoking students. Smoking seems to be a growing trend on campus, especially among the female student population. With so many anti-tobacco groups, and so much research about the negative effects of smoking, why do so many educated women choose to light up?
Smoking for many adults becomes a habit before they can legally vote, with about 80 percent of smoking adults starting before the age of 18, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. About 18 percent of women between ages 18 to 24 are regular smokers. In Texas alone about 15 percent of young women smoke.
Among the students surveyed, the majority of female smokers began once they started attending St. Edward’s University.
Sophomore Marcela Beas has been a smoker since her first semester in college. Beginning as a ‘social smoker,’ her addiction grew due to smoking becoming a way for her to be comfortable around new people.
“In a way smoking has become my comfort zone when meeting new people,” said Beas. “Or just being in a social setting where things can be a little awkward sometimes.”
Most adults and young teens that become chain smokers started as social smokers, according to the Department of Health. Junior Camille Dehne has been a social smoker for two years, and a regular partaker for one. Dehne claims the social aspect was the main reason she began smoking, but being at St. Edward’s contributed greatly as well.
“I was definitely influenced by not only the people I spend time around, but the growing number of students that smoke at St. Edward’s,” said Dehne. “At St. Edward’s, it seems like smoking has more to do with the social aspects than anything else.”
‘Smoker’s Alley’, the breezeway located in between the campus bookstore and Ragsdale, is the top location frequented by those gathering to socialize while partaking in cigarette smoking.
Sophomore Hillary Hoyes started smoking socially a year ago and now smokes up to five cigarettes a day.
“I’ve noticed that I smoke as I walk to classes, and I always smoke when I’m sitting outside waiting for someone to pass the time,” said Hoyes.
The goal to achieve a certain weight is the target of many young women. Magazines and advertisers are constantly selling products to help women reach that desired number on the scale. A myth of smoking is that it helps you lose or maintain weight, a myth that many female smokers believe.
“Smoking for me has been related to being worried about my weight,” said Beas. “My motivation to smoke has been tied up to my body image. I have smoked in order to skip meals.” Even with knowing the negative effects of smoking, Hoyes sees it as an advantage to smoking.
“If smoking is proven to help maintain my weight, then great,” said Hoyes. But can the “benefits” out way the health problems?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 21 percent of Americans are smokers and the same percent of Americans are former smokers. Young women on campus have plans of quitting but the process is difficult and many times not achieved.
Former smoker, Tara Ferguson smoked from when she was 17 to 22 years old. She spent most of that time as a habitual social smoker. Ferguson said that if she were drinking the number of cigarettes she had would increase.
“I slowly started smoking only when I socialized or went to parties,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson went from a once avid believer in not smoking to a social smoker and eventually formed a regular habit. Ferguson decided to quit because she no longer wanted something so unhealthy to control her everyday life.
“Smoking is really a nasty habit that not only kills you, it is also horribly smelly, unattractive, and ages a person big time,” said Ferguson.
Many smokers on campus also feel like St. Edward’s has become a place of smoking acceptance. Most plan on quitting and some even want to quit before they head back to their hometowns this summer because smoking is less acceptable in that environment.
“I’m currently trying to quit before I go home for the summer. I don’t want my little cousin to know I smoke,” said Hoyes. Other students share the same sentiment of not wanting to become a regular smoker well into their adulthood.
“Of course I plan on quitting,” said Beas. “I know for a fact that I can quit and I will do so. My main problem is leaving cigarettes behind as my comfort zone and finding a new one.”
Students at the University of Texas at Austin who come to visit friends at St. Edward’s University notice the population of smokers as well. University of Texas sophomore Nicole Raney said even the way students travel from classes is different.
“Whenever I come to St. Edward’s I see so many people smoking and they all seem so attached to their cigarettes where at UT I notice more people using there iPods than smoking,” said Raney. Another University of Texas sophomore, Holly Dinh who is a food and nutrition major has also witnessed the large amount of smokers at St. Edward’s. She rarely likes to come to St. Edward’s because of the secondhand smoke.
“At UT, even if you are around smokers you can easily get remove yourself from the smoke but every time I go to St. Edward’s it’s so hard to not be surrounded by a cloud of smoke at all times,” said Dinh.
University of Texas sophomore Jessie Lott points out that even though her school is much larger than St. Edward’s she still feels like there is a larger population of smokers.
“I think there are more regular smokers at St. Edward’s than social smokers. Where as at UT people tend to only smoke at parties in my experience,” said Lott.
St. Edward’s University’s health services office has noticed this problem. On Nov. 16, 2010 they held a “Smoke Out” in order to encourage people to quit smoking and provided different ways of doing so.
Colleges Against Cancer is also a organization who has strived to promote people to live a healthy, smoke free life.
“ We want students to be aware of the consequences that come with smoking and we want them to strive to live a healthier life,” said Colleges Against Cancer president Paloma Reinoso. “We all have such a bright future ahead of us and nothing should get in the way of that.”