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College Campus Smoking Still Smolders

The Nicotine-Fueled Masses Demand Their Fix

Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Walking around Boston College's beautiful campus, it is not hard to find some traces of litter that can tell us a lot about the students at BC. Most interestingly, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, these things that were left behind are particularly illuminating of the night that was had. Whether they be a sad pile of fallen mozzarella sticks from Late Night, a crushed Natty can, or scattered cigarette butts, these all are little clues of the happenings on campus. Though the Natty and mozzarella sticks usually are only weekend indulgences, smoking is one habit that creeps into the everyday lives of many college students. Is it something that we notice, or even bat an eye at? Walking across campus, how many smokers do we see on a daily basis?

The prevalence of smoking on BC's campus is widely debated. According to Josh Dutton, A&S '14, "I don't think many people smoke on campus." This seems to be a commonly-held belief. Students don't often look at BC as a school filled with smokers. It's just not a way they would categorize their undergraduate population. But it is something that calls for our attention. No one in our generation can claim that they have never heard that smoking is bad for them. There are tons of campaigns geared toward getting this message across to people, and revealing the gruesome diseases and health problems that can come along with this habit. So the question stands: Why, if we know how harmful smoking is, do college students still continue to light up?

According to research done by the Harvard School of Public Health, one third of college students reported using tobacco products within the last four weeks, and half reported using them within the past year. What is it about the college atmosphere that seems to permit smoking? "I think that students smoke because they are stressed out and need it to relax and take the edge off," Dutton says. This seems to be a common belief, and is supported by the fact that there seems to be a larger gathering of smokers outside of O'Neill Library than anywhere else on campus. The library, in the minds of students, is directly linked with stress, and it seems that students sometimes need to slip away from their books for a nicotine fix.

Unfortunately, this all-too-familiar scene poses larger problems than health concerns. The University's rules and regulations are in conflict with these practices, though they seem to continue. According to University Librarian Thomas Wall, "We have had complaints about smoking at the Level Three entrance of the O'Neill Library. In response, we have posted some ‘No Smoking' signs that are frequently ignored. Patrick Rombalski (Vice President of Student Affairs) has informed me about the 20-ft rule, but we have no means to enforce it." According to policy, there is no smoking permitted inside BC buildings, or within 20 feet of them, something that Wall clearly struggles with at the library.

There is a University smoking policy that dates back to August 2003, searchable on that states, "Environmental Protection Agency underscored the health risks of secondhand, or passive, smoke by linking this type of smoke to 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year, and by classifying secondhand smoke as a Class A known human carcinogen. Smoking can also be a cause of annoyance, physical discomfort, and mental stress, particularly for those who suffer allergic or chronic reactions to smoke and other impurities in the air. The purpose of this policy is to provide reasonable protection to the health of all members of the Boston College community from the effects of tobacco smoke."

Wall has pursued different conversations in trying to deal with the problem of people smoking outside of the library doors, which can be a hazard to a passerby and others who have stepped outside the library to enjoy some fresh air or make a phone call. "I have referred the problem to others in the University Administration, suggesting we consider making BC a smoke-free campus. Many universities have taken this approach. To my surprise, I was recently informed that UGBC rejected the idea of a smoke-free campus. So I don't know about next steps," Wall said. It seems that the voice of the student body, UGBC, has decided that making BC smoke-free is simply not an option. According to Dutton, "I don't think it's a major problem that needs to be addressed." "I wouldn't personally support the all-out ban, but smoke zones," said Mike Kitlas, UGBC President and A&S '12. "If students want to smoke, it's their choice. They have that right, but having certain zones on campus where students can smoke would limit the effects on non-smokers and would be the best sort of compromise."

University Health Services realizes the prevalence of smoking on campus, and has addressed this issue in its own way. They have a page dedicated to "Smoking Cessation," complete with tips to quit or cut down, and contacts to reach for support about the process, if one should choose to go through it. Encouraging students to stay strong, the webpage proclaims, "Relapses occur most often in the first week. If this happens, don't give up, try again!" Health Services has a positive message that students can quit, and they should not feel like there is no help for them on campus.

But for those still using tobacco products, it appears that cigarettes and lighters come out more than ever on weekend nights. This link between drinking, partying, and smoking seems to be one that appears natural to students, and isn't usually questioned. "Drinking definitely plays a part in it. I know some people who only smoke when they are drunk. I guess this happens because they don't realize that their judgment is impaired, and because it is a social activity," said Dutton.

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