Smoking habits linked to college

By Julie Listek

Leaving home and entering college may be the start of addictive smoking habits among college-age students.

A study conducted in August 1987 of 248 NIU students entering the university for the first time, reported that only 4 percent of the students used tobacco daily. By April 1988, 23 percent of these same students used tobacco daily.

“The college experience itself, in some way or another, causes them (students) to smoke, or at least experiment with it, but exactly what about the college experience that causes them to do this has not been studied yet,” said NIU Health Enhancement Coordinator Michael Haines.

NIU Chief of Medical Staff Sara Susmano said there has been a nationwide increase in the amount of smoking among young adults. “It (the increase) has been suspected for many years that this happens in college,” she said.

In the past, NIU offered programs to help students to stop smoking, but attendance was too low and the programs were cancelled, she said.

Susmano said the low attendance can be attributed to poor attitudes.

“Youth in general think nothing will happen to them, it will always be somebody else,” she said. “I think we should repeat this type of education again and maybe the risks of smoking will sink in.”

Haines said pamphlets containing tips on how to quit smoking and the harms of the addiction are available at the health center. Referrals to agencies to help quit are also on hand.

“What we have is what most universities have … but there is very little information why students shouldn’t start and that’s what we need,” Haines said.

“I don’t think a program about how to stop smoking would lower the rate (of smokers) as much as a program about how not to start smoking in the first place might lower it.”

Haines said students come to campus and check out what smoking is like and since nicotine is very addictive, it “accidentally” becomes an addiction.

“Work needs to be done on how to inform students why not to start and no one is doing it,” he said.

Susmano agreed. “We need to inform students about all the health risks and hope that people listen … information is the most important tool.”