You know what it looks like: a simple, three-inch stick, usually white, one-third inch in diameter and packed with tobacco, tar, nicotine and 599 additives approved by the U.S. government.
It is also notorious for its association with lung cancer and emphysema and banned from public enclosed spaces like restaurants and workplaces, children’s playgrounds and within six yards of any building in California (Assembly Bill 188).
Cigarettes have been around for ages, dating as far back as the 17th and 18th centuries when beggars in Seville, who collected the remains of cigars smoked by rich men, rolled them up in paper and smoked them. They quickly gained popularity after the Crimean War and were distributed to World War I and World War II soldiers.
However, attitutes towards cigarettes in the 21st century shifted greatly, especially in the United States, with prohibitions on cigarette sales to minors in 1950, Surgeon General Luther Terry’s announcement in 1964 that ‘cigarettes cause lung cancer’ and the 1970 act to ban cigarette ads.
Though cigarette consumption in California among 18- to 24-year-olds has decreased by seven percent between 1996 and 2005, according to a survey by the California Department of Health Services Tobacco Control Section, a 2002 survey revealed that 24.1 percent of UC Irvine students were picking up or staying with the habit, a higher percentage than the state average of 20.1 percent.
We all know that habits are hard to break but never let that discourage you from quitting if you are a smoker.
Karen Short, a fifth-year history major and member of Student Task Force Advocating Reducing Tobacco at UCI, was a former cigarette smoker who started at the age of 14 and successfully quit on her third try after a hiking incident in 2003 when she caught a cold that turned into a painful bronchial infection.
‘By the time I got better [from the bronchial infection] I didn’t want to smoke anymore,’ Short said. ‘One [reason I started smoking] was to make a statement. I wanted to differentiate myself … by doing something [others] wouldn’t.
‘The other alternative was to hang out with the ‘bad kids.’ Most of my friends were drug dealers and I felt out of place not smoking. I was in my friend’s garage and we stole some [cigarettes] from her dad. It was the middle of winter and I got so sick I threw up the rest of the day. Then I tried [smoking] again the next day and the next until I stopped getting sick. … Smoking was a part of my routine. … It was very difficult to quit, but not impossible.’
Whether it’s due to peer pressure, stress, a way to rebel, boredom or experimentation, eight out of ten adults who smoke tried their first cigarette before they reached 18.
According to the American Cancer Society, each year more people die from smoking than die from AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse, car crashes, murders, suicides and fires combined. Each year, one in five Americans dies from smoking. Each year, 438,000 people die from tobacco use in the Unied States. The ACS reports that half of all Americans who continue smoking are going to die because of it.
Jasmine Blackburn, coordinator of Tobacco and Student Support Programs at the UC Irvine Health Education Center, explained the effects of smoking on the body.
‘The way your brain works, every time you’re smoking with an event, it reinforces that behavior,’ Blackburn said. ‘So when you go to a party, the inclination is to smoke which is how you condition yourself. Nicotine, from the plant nicotiana, is found in all tobacco products and is an addictive problem. … The majority of kids on campus are social smokers and that can lead to addiction within the four years that they are here.’
Nicotine can cause a chemical addiction. It takes nicotine eight seconds to reach your brain from the bloodstream. The brain has receptors for nicotine and releases dopamine, which makes you happy.
Psychologically, the pairing up of smoking and socializing may lead to a dangerous habit.
‘[Smokers] crave [cigarettes],’ Blackburn said. ‘They smoke when they don’t think about it, they rationalize or justify smoking, choose jobs or activities that permit them to smoke, avoid people who don’t smoke and continue to use cigarettes despite good reasons for quitting. They’ll say, ‘It’s bad for me, but I’m going to keep doing it.”
It doesn’t help to be around cigarettes either. If raised around people who smoke, chances are you may be more susceptible to addiction
The Health Education Center understands how difficult it is for students to quit smoking and for this reason, they provide tons of resources for students. The Health Education Center’s Quit Kits, one-on-one coaching and referrals to the community all encourage students to wean themselves off of cigarettes.
The Health Education Center also holds movie nights to educate students about smoking. On Oct. 4 in HIB 100 at 7 p.m., the Health Education Center, in a collaborative effort with ASUCI, will show “Thank You for Smoking.”
Let’s not forget the students who choose not to smoke.
One student, Genaro Montalvo, a third-year Civil Engineering major, explained that he doesn’t feel the need to smoke because ‘it’s not beneficial.’
Montalvo, who visits the gym three times a week and actively plays sports like soccer, volleyball, and running, said, ‘When I’m not in Irvine I play at the park with two friends for soccer, and when in Irvine, [I play] with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineering at UCI. … As long as you don’t smoke excessively, it’s alright. I mean, if you’ve got an active lifestyle and smoking isn’t going to help you out, then I suggest that smoking isn’t a good idea.’
Another popular form of smoking tobacco is hookah, which has become a nationwide attraction that some jurisdictions are trying to prohibit. This social phenomenon has grown so popular on college campuses that even UC San Diego sponsors free hookah events.
Many students do not know that smoking a hookah is actually a lot worse than smoking a cigarette, with eight times more carbon monoxide and 36 times more tar in a typical hookah session than in one cigarette.
We know that lung cancer is strongly linked to smoking. We also know that it’s hard to quit. But think about what you can buy for the price of a pack of cigarettes if you quit smoking or never start:
In one day: a meal.
In one week: a full tank of gas.
In one month: an iPod nano.
In one year: a trip for two to Hawaii.
For more information on quitting smoking, contact the Health Education Center or call the Orange County hotline at 1-800-NEWLUNG or the California state hotline at 1-800-NOBUTTS.