By Linda Smith
A & E Editor
As a prospie in 2010, I walked down the Mall the Friday of Odyssey Days. I remember it being packed with people relaxing in the common areas during the midday Friday buzz. Near the Science Building, a large group of students stood smoking cigarettes and a large cloud permeated the air around them. I looked toward the front of Haggar and saw a similar scene. My eyes quickly scanned everywhere between Braniff and the Tower and I realized that these small groups dotted the Mall with this ritualistic practice. As I browsed, the University of Dallas marketing intern accompanying me said something to the effect of this being the norm at UD. Many people pick up the habit in Rome and it just carries through for the rest of their time here, she told me; that is, if they do not come here already smoking.
So, that’s it? Smoking was just supposed to be something we all picked up, like a weird rite of passage in the college experience? Her words were dissatisfying to me: It was not enough to trump the educational opportunities this place offers, but even now I wonder about how odd it was that this was accepted as a plain fact, something that is just understood about this community.
Changes to policies involving smoking have come up in recent years, with the first implementation of the city ordinance in 2007, which prohibited smoking within 25 feet of any building. E-cigs were added to the policy this fall, ending a debate that had begun in February of this year over whether or not they should be regarded as an extension of cigarettes. Yet cigarette use still continues: I do not believe it was the aim of these policies to curb or end it altogether, but other initiatives to do so have not yet revealed themselves.
According to a survey conducted by Claire Ballor, commentary editor of The University News, on Friday, Oct. 24, out of 54 students who were randomly surveyed on the Mall, 50 percent smoked. Fifty percent of those smokers said they smoke multiple times a day. Over half of the 54 students started when they came to UD, with 65 percent starting their sophomore year. 66 percent smoke socially, while only 23 percent smoke to relieve stress.
The above data is not at all surprising. 24.2 percent of the Italian population smokes daily, according to a 2002/2003 survey at nationmaster.com, and other European countries are in the same range, with the highest percentage being 36.3 percent in Austria. Given these statistics, one can see that the influence is very much present in a UD student’s Rome semester. The students who smoke to relieve stress quickly find out that there is too much stress to make it an acceptable escape. I say this as someone who smoked with another friend “when we were stressed” for about two weeks, a practice that led to thin wallets and a need to end our growing addiction immediately. However, socially, the tantalizing temptation can easily take over and often does (again, something this writer has personally dealt with).
Several campaigns to end smoking have come up in recent months. A website named thetruth.com has begun a campaign with the hashtag #finishit, and a video called “Finishers.” The video, as of 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 25, had over 500,000 views on YouTube. The campaign’s mantra states that this generation can be the one to end smoking, as it is down to nine percent of teens nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also began a campaign in June of this year called “Tips from Former Smokers.” It features graphic ads and videos of people whose lives have been devastated by smoking, and features a gamut of situations, from people who have lost nearly all of their teeth to a woman who tragically passed away.
I am not trying to dissuade people from smoking; as someone who has occasionally smoked since the age of 18 and who has been around it for most of my life, I think it is something that draws people in for certain understandable reasons, and it is not the worst thing to occupy a few minutes with. However, I have to wonder if we will continue to view it as a part of our school’s culture that is just “how it is,” or if we will jump on a healthy bandwagon for the better.