Students examine campus smoking scene

It brings students together outside of the library, on the steps of the Marvin Center, around the clock in Kogan Plaza and in front of residence halls. It draws students from all different classes, interests and majors together in the rain, sun and snow. This unifying ritual is cigarette smoking.

Despite the increased awareness of the hazards of smoking, the habit is increasing on college campuses. According to a study by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, daily smoking by college students increased from 12 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 1998.

GW smoking statistics compiled by The Hatchet are in line with national figures. Out of 120 random GW students surveyed, 19 percent said they smoke – about one in five students. The Journal of the American Medical Association also released a report in August stating that about one in five college students smoke.

Twenty-six percent of GW males surveyed and 14 percent of females said they smoke. Susan Haney, the outreach coordinator for Student Health Services and a registered nurse, said she believes The Hatchet’s survey figures are accurate. But some students said they believe that even more than 19 percent of their peers light up daily.

Fifty-three percent of students surveyed said they are under the impression that most students at GW smoke.

I think that (percent of GW smokers) is far too low, sophomore Clark Munson said. When I first came (to GW) I told my friends, `GW’s the campus where everyone smokes.’

Bob Nashwarty said he agrees.

More than 19 percent of my friends smoke – like 80 percent of them do, he said. I think it is awful.

Haney said it seems like more than 19 percent of students smoke because people are more concentrated outside in areas not banned from smoking.

The areas outside of Gelman Library and Thurston Hall are two of the most popular gathering place for smokers, according to students surveyed.

It drives me crazy, Munson said. When I walk to the library, it is hard to get through because everyone is there smoking.

Junior Dominic Gabello said he does not think most GW students smoke. It is only a certain group of students, he said.

Honestly, most people I see smoking are freshmen, Gabello said.

Gabello said he sees more students smoking outside of freshman resident halls than anywhere else.

Freshman Eliza Brown said the benches in front of Thurston Hall attract large crowds of smokers. Brown said she believes a lot of freshmen smoke because they are away from home for the first time and their parents are not looking over their shoulders.

Haney said it is possible that more freshmen are smoking. A recent Harvard University study shows that more students are taking their first drags in college, while most people began in high school in the past. Sixty-one percent of GW smokers surveyed said they began smoking between the ages of 16 and 18.

The majority of GW students who smoke said they smoke less than four cigarettes a day. About 67 percent of respondents classified themselves as social smokers, meaning they smoke only while they are out with friends. Social smoking is especially prevalent when students drink alcohol, many students said.

Mayur Sanghvi began smoking two years ago when he was 20 years old and smokes about eight to 10 cigarettes a day. Sanghvi said social smokers are just fooling themselves.

If you are addicted you are addicted, he said.

Senior Brian Brennan views social smokers differently.

I admire people who can keep it down to just that, Brennan said. It’s nice to have a few cigarettes when you are out.

According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smoking has been identified as the greatest source of preventable premature mortality. More that 400,000 Americans die each year from diseases directly linked to smoking, according to the American Cancer Society.

All non-smokers and 87 percent of smokers polled said they think smoking is hazardous to one’s health. A study by WebMD Web site discovered that about half of young smokers want to quit by the time they are in college. About 52 percent of GW students who smoke said they want to quit.

I really, really do (want to quit), Sanghvi said. I am tired of it and am getting bored. I think I will be able to. I don’t believe in the patch. It is all in the mind – all or nothing.

Junior Amanda Iacobelli agreed that in order for smokers to quit they must really want to do it.

People who think they should quit won’t make it, they have to want to, she said.

Other student smokers such as Christian Brucculeri said they do not want to drop the habit yet.

It is a time-out, a way of keeping time, Brucculeri said. I measure walks in cigarettes.

Some students said smoking offers students a way to relieve stress.

A lot of students smoke because they are so uptight and strung out, T.J. Brunner said.

Haney heads a group counseling program for students who are trying to quit smoking. The counseling sessions address students’ motivations for quitting and the obstacles, stress and problems associated with kicking the habit.

Haney also informs students about the benefits and drawbacks of different tools for quitting, such as patches and gum. Haney said she also offers individual sessions for students uncomfortable in group settings.

Haney is working to promote the Great American Smoke Out on campus. The Great American Smoke Out takes place the third Thursday in November nationwide every year. Smokers are encouraged quit smoking for 24 hours. It is the one day a year when the entire country tries to be smoke-free, Haney said.

The Smoke Out will take place on Nov. 16. The GW Wellness Committee, which includes representatives from Student Health Services, the University Counseling Center and the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse, will set up information tables about smoking and hand out survival kits, full of hard candy and gum.

The group will also hand out bubbles so smokers will have something to do with their hands. One of the main obstacles of quitting is idle hands Haney said. Haney said she hopes non-smoking students will adopt a smoker and help their friends get through the day cigarette-free.

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