Clearing the air about cigarettes, smoking at Whitworth

Amy Youngs

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

The Smudge: How to smoke your first cigarette

There are three kinds of people in the world: the smoker, the non-smoker, and the poor, conflicted soul caught somewhere in between. At a place like Whitworth University, there is nothing more uncomfortable and hilarious than the earthshaking collision of these three people. All three claim to be open-minded and operate according to a certain kind of ethic. The non-smoker is a virtue ethicist, asking the ever-important question, “What does it look like to be a good, virtuous person?” On the other hand, the smoker’s open-mindedness is more a biological condition in which the “openness” of their mind is simply an absence of brain cells, which have since been killed off by vapors and chemicals. And then there are the fence-sitters. These folk are the kind-hearted and endearing friends-to-all who don’t want to judge, but want to live fully and meaningfully. It is for you, my blessed ones, that I have created a guide to help you be “in the world, but not of it.” Here are some tips on how to smoke your first cigarette, when the opportunity most surreptitiously arises. 1) DON’T BE A HERO: I’m serious, you guys. It may be embarrassing not to finish the whole thing, but it’s infinitely worse if you end up ralphing all over the place. If you simply can’t continue, just stop inhaling. Puff the smoke only into your mouth, and then make the classic “that’s good stuff” face as you huff it out. No lungs, no problem! No one will even notice.

2) Avoid the smoker’s ledge outside the coffee shop windows: This spot is reserved for PROFESSIONAL SMOKERS ONLY. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. Besides, that spot is judgment city, and is no place for the closet-smoker (no offense).

3) Choose your friends: Be with people you are comfortable with, or people you want to reach out to. Maybe it’s that edgy friend who is rough around the edges, but is really a good guy.

4) Cover your trail: Run home. Don’t talk to anybody. When you get home, tear your clothes off, and throw them in the washer. Brush your teeth, floss and rinse with mouthwash. Febreeze your entire room.

5) Don’t tell anyone who wouldn’t understand: Smoking isn’t bad, right? It’s simply misunderstood. Don’t make the classic mistake of sharing your recent endeavor with a narrow-minded friend or parent, lest you feel the oppressive weight of their clandestine judgment.

Now get out there, you silly geese! A world of new and exciting things awaits for your open mind and willing heart. But don’t be a hero. Trust me.

Jonny Strain Columnist

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