After two decades of research, the link between smoking tobacco and various forms of lung, heart and mouth cancer are more than proven.
Still, many students on campus choose to smoke, whether it be pipe tobacco, shisha (wet tobacco smoked from a hookah), cigarettes or cigars.
At Whitworth, smoking not only affects health, but interactions with others. The habitual cigarette smoker is often avoided by non-smokers. Sophomore Henry Johnson said he doesn’t smoke as much as he used to, although other people still sometimes identify him by his habit.
“I remember last year, somebody said they remembered me because I was that one kid with guns on his shirt that smelled like cigarettes,” Johnson said.
Johnson picked up the habit during his sophomore year of high school, although lately he said he has been cutting back. Johnson said at a smaller school like Whitworth, it’s harder to break a bad reputation. At Whitworth, it’s only natural for smokers to congregate, he said.
“If you are a smoker, you first will find the other people that smoke, and then you will engage them at some point, because — and I feel like a lot of other people feel the same way too — you don’t feel as judged,” Johnson said. “It’s not something you do behind closed doors. You always feel more comfortable in groups of anything.”
Johnson, like many other smokers on campus, said he feels the scrutiny of other students at Whitworth. Freshman Elisabeth Ersek said she doesn’t understand why others judge.
“I especially get [looks] from visiting moms and their kids, that’s a big one, because they go out of their way to make you know that they’re giving you a glare,” Ersek said. “Smoking is not as big of a deal as everybody makes it out to be. There are so many things that people do to themselves that are unhealthy every day and that they don’t give a [expletive] about.”
Of the 35 million Americans who try to quit smoking every year, 85 percent who try to quit on their own fail, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While many smokers wish to quit, some are content with their habit.
“The first time I smoked a full cigarette, I really liked it,” freshman Amy Youngs said.
She said that given the chance to go back and do it over, she wouldn’t change her mind about picking up the habit.
“It’s more of a stress kind of thing. It helps me calm down,” Youngs said.
Youngs said she has been the recipient of dirty looks, but that it’s her personal decision to continue to smoke. She said that as long as she keeps a respectable distance, there’s “no room for judgment.”
Johnson said if he could go back and do it over again, he is sure he would have never picked up that first cigarette.
“Most people don’t want to be smokers, but we’ve been foolish enough that we’ve gotten ourselves in this situation,” Johnson said.
He said the judgment often makes quitting more difficult.
“It’s harder for us to quit because we get more stressed out, more agitated, and it throws us back in this vicious cycle.”
Lucas Thayer Staff Writer
Contact Lucas Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org