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Some still smoke despite known health risks, smoke-free campuses and cessation programs

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Thomas King
Oxford Stories

In August 2012, the University of Mississippi became part of a nationwide campaign among colleges that bans smoking on campuses and offers cessation help. Even still, some student-smokers under duress of potential fines that negatively impact their financial aid see this policy as a huge downside.

Unofficial “smoking areas” litter the university campus where you will sometimes find three or four rogue smokers stopping for a moment to grab a quick smoke before or after a class. Even if you do not spot the smokers, you will likely spot the trash left behind.

Cigarette filters, butts, and packs are often left just beside the University of Mississippi’s “Smoke Free UM” signs that are placed strategically around campus, usually around these unofficial smoking areas.

Jackson Solaris, a senior IMC major and smoker, thinks having official designated smoking areas would improve the policy and help reduce some of the litter around campus.

“I mean people are going to smoke on campus regardless if you are allowed to or not,” Solaris said. “So having a smoking area would make it easier for students not to just throw their butts on the ground or have to worry about getting a ticket.”

Other students feel differently about the policy. Shelby Wiechert, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, sees the policy as a plus that can help students.

“I am a former smoker, and one thing I can tell you is that when you quit smoking, the cigarette smell is disgusting,” Wiechert said. “I would hope that the policy would help others quit smoking.”

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Cessation programs, such as the ones the University of Mississippi, are invaluable as “cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States” according to the CDC.

The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium also advocates for smoke free campuses and believes its importance is invaluable because of college campuses importance to a community.

“Campuses are often highly visible within a community,” the TCLC reports. “Adopting a tobacco-free policy educates the public, local government and organizations about the advisability of such a policy, and encourages them to adopt similar measures.”

The University of Mississippi’s Health Promotion’s statement on our own university’s smoking policy states: “The Health Center and Counseling Center offer a range of smoking cessation and support programs for any member of the university community who desires to quit smoking. The university’s employee health insurance plan covers the full cost for three months of cessation medications.”

Current students and faculty who are smokers looking for help quitting smoking at the University of Mississippi, are encouraged to visit the Student Health Center.

“There is a basic, take-home strategy that you can do on your own,” Sandra Bentley, Director of the student pharmacy said. “And there is an intensive program that will meet three to four times about an half hour each time, and these sessions will give you more one on one strategies.”

From 1990 to 1997, smoking rates among college students rose from 22 to 28 percent, but have dropped in recent years as most university campuses have issued no smoking policies and have shifted to make their campus  smoke-free. The CDC reported that in 2016, that only 15.5 percent of adults aged 18 or older currently reported smoking cigarettes.

Some would report this drop in smoking rates to the increased amount of no smoking policies on college campuses nationwide. The American Non-Smokers’ Rights Foundation reports that in October 2010, only 446 college campuses were smoke free, but as of Jan. 2, 2018, at least 2,106 college campuses nationwide are now 100 percent smoke free.

At least 70 percent of college smokers are “non-daily smokers” or “social smokers,” according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine. According to the students who were polled, they smoked because they were “experimenting college students who smoked socially to gain peer acceptance.”

The majority of college students who smoked were social smokers, and studies showed that social smokers “did not perceive themselves as smokers,” which opens up the possibility of social smokers failing “to recognize the health risks associated with their tobacco use.”

One in five American deaths are the result of cigarette smoking to this day, but the smoking rates have fallen consistently since 1965 from around “42 percent of the population in 1965 to slightly less than 25 percent in 1997 to about 18 percent in 2012,” according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wiechert sees the rates dropping as a positive, and is hopeful for more to quit smoking in the future. “I don’t think we will ever see everyone quit smoking,” Wiechert said. “But if this policy helps one person quit smoking, then that’s one life saved. That is invaluable.”

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