Why Do College Students Smoke?

This is a guest post by John Madden, a blogger and reviewer of smoking alternatives at Ecigarette Reviewed.

As more and more studies indicate the terrible risks associated with smoking, it has become appropriate to ask what causes certain groups to smoke. One of the most problematic parts of smoking is that most lifetime smokers have already started by the time they are 24. This would indicate that people generally start during their college age or earlier, so that is an age group that should be targeted. It’s a growing problem, and in this article, we’d like to examine substance abuse education ideas, then hear from readers in the comments.

Social pressure in a totally new environment is likely what leads to most college students to start smoking for the first time. Peer pressure is still a major part of the college life, and things like smoking and partying have become associated with the “college experience”. While many college students have learned how to turn down negative peer pressure, that does not mean they will avoid doing things just to fit in. Upon reaching a new college, freshmen have almost nothing to turn to that they are used to doing from before, as the entire culture around them is different. Personally, I started smoking in college when I realized that a cigarette was the perfect compliment to a full stomach of pizza or beer.

However, according to the CDC, approximately 90% of smokers have already tried smoking by the time they are 18. So, realistically, it is hard to reach out to college students before they try smoking, as most of them already have before they came to college. This is not to say there is no way to reduce the amount of smoking in college-age students. Instead the method of helping them needs to be different. One possible step is the use of e-cigarettes as a stepping stool from smoking to non-smoking. The US National Institutes for Health indicate that these e-cigarettes do decrease tobacco use, and are not unhealthy enough to warrant worry about their primary use.

What else causes college kids to smoke? Based on the CDC’s facts, 1 in 5 high school males smokes cigars. I was also one of those who tried out cigars in high school when the first of my friends turned 18. Similarly, the use of smokeless tobacco has begun to increase once again. What does this have to do with cigarettes? A group of students is going to be much less likely to smoke if they do not do any other drugs or use other forms of tobacco. Basically, using one version of tobacco is very likely to encourage the user to experiment in its other forms. Once again, the easiest way to prevent this from spreading and slow its growth is to reach out to teenagers who are in high school, because most of them try it before they even get to college. Those who do wait until college may be met with social pressures, but these are nowhere near as strong as an addiction that has already been formed.

There are several methods that can be used to reduce the number of young smokers. Based on the previous statistics mentioned, this would be the best way to combat college-aged smokers. First of all, a decrease in advertising and stricter laws regarding how tobacco can be advertised would be effective. The CDC reports that young people are more likely to smoke if they are exposed to smoking advertising earlier. Likewise, a more in-depth education regarding the harsh possible consequences in health classes before and during high school would likely prove beneficial in the long run. Since the habit has generally already formed for college kids who smoke, it is not likely to get them to stop on a large scale, so prevention from smoking in the first place is key. However, methods such as education about health risks and possible stepping stones like rehabilitation or e-cigarettes may be the best options.

Resources

http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/preventing-youth-tobacco-use/factsheet.html

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