Cigarette smoking prevalent on college campuses
MILWAUKEE -- College students across the country are lighting up.
Cigarette use is continuing to grow at campuses nationwide, with college students leading the pack in tobacco use.
According to the Core Institute Statistics on Alcohol and Other Drug Uses on College Campuses Survey, 35.5 percent of college students reported using tobacco within a one-month period.
"This is much higher than the national average, which is 23 percent of adults," said Jessica Thieleke, program coordinator for the Wisconsin branch of the American Lung Association. "Here in Wisconsin, our adult tobacco rate is right around the national average rate, between 23 and 24 percent."
Thieleke is concerned about this growing number of college students who are becoming regular users of tobacco.
"Something startling that is happening is that more and more young adults are coming into college who weren't previously using tobacco, and they're starting to do that in college," Thieleke said. "It used to be thought that if you could prevent young adults from using tobacco in high school, they would be fine, but now that's changing."
Even college students who were already steady smokers when they came to college are smoking more frequently now that they're away from home.
"I started smoking more when I came to college," said Marquette University sophomore John Kramer, a three-pack-a-week smoker who has been smoking for the past four years.
Freshman Courtney Tarsa also started smoking more when she came to college.
"It's easier here," said Tarsa, who limits herself to two packs during the week and one pack on the weekend. "I smoked regularly in high school, but my whole family is non-smokers, and they don't allow smoking in the house. I had to hide it when I was there."
Thieleke credits this increase to the idea that the tobacco industry targets college students.
"The tobacco industry is actively marketing to this population," Thieleke said. "They're on campuses, whether you see them or not. They're handing out cigarettes at bars, handing out promotional material, so they're getting to (students) in that way."
"They're really bombarded by the images."
A representative from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. refused to comment, saying that he didn't want a response to be misconstrued as marketing to the college population.
Advertisements attempting to dissuade smokers are cropping up in response to the many images put forth by the tobacco industry. One group quickly gaining popularity is The Truth, an organization made up of college-aged members. However, Kramer hasn't noticed the ads making a big difference.
"(The anti-smoking ads) don't really affect me," Kramer said. "I mean, it's not anything I don't already know."
"I don't see myself trying to quit anytime soon."
Kramer isn't the only college student who lacks the desire to quit smoking.
"I could quit if I wanted to, but I don't really want to that much," said Megan Rooney, a sophomore who has been smoking since she was 15.
"I don't care enough (to quit)," Rooney said.
Thieleke is currently working with the American Lung Association to organize the first-ever Wisconsin Campus Tobacco Summit, a conference that intends to gather together representatives from colleges across the state to discuss tobacco use on campuses. She hopes this will be the first step in educating students like Kramer and Rooney about why they should quit smoking.
"It's a day-long conference that's inviting universities to send people to come together and discuss tobacco use on college campuses and what can be done about it, what needs to be done about it," Thieleke said. "It's really geared for campuses to come and share information."
There are some smokers out there who do hope for the determination to quit smoking once and for all.
"I've tried to cut down on cigarettes, and I've tried to go cold turkey," Tarsa said. "I look at smoking as both mental and physical, though, and mine is totally mental."
"I have a really hard time quitting."
Tarsa believes, though, that the time to quit is soon.
"They say it takes 10 years for you to get your lungs fully restored after you quit," Tarsa said. "My goal is to quit smoking when I'm 20 so I'm good when I'm 30. And when I do that, I'm going to go all out, you know? I'm going to do the patch and everything.
"Like I said, it's all mental."