Students Still Lighting Up

Eli Davis Siems has been smoking for two years. When he was a high school student, everyone used to smoke after school and during lunch breaks. Today, the first-year English major smokes four to five cigarettes a day—two packs a week—mostly after class or a meal.

In a 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, it showed that 27.2 percent of full-time college students like Siems are smokers, in spite of the health risks of the habit.

“It shows kind of a disregard for your health, like an attitude that I guess cool people often have,” Siems said.

First-year business major Mohammad Sarwat Yaman has also been smoking for four years. He currently smokes ten cigarettes a day. He smoked his first cigarette when he was 16 years old while he was alone in a family farmhouse.

“I was like ‘OK, I don’t have anything to do here,” Yaman said. “I’m just relaxing. Let me see what it feels like. Let’s see how it is and that’s how I started smoking.”

A 2007 report for the New York State Department of Health showed the prevalence among smokers 18 to 24 years old is highest when compared to other age groups, standing at 24 percent. Also, the 2009 American Cancer Society statistics show lung cancer as the most common fatal illness with 30 percent of men and 26 percent of women dying from this disease.

Both Siems and Yaman said they are completely aware of the dangers of smoking and consider themselves well-educated on the subject. They regret having started smoking, and both students said warnings on cigarette packs are ineffective.

Siems and Yaman have tried to quite smoking. Siems said he succeeded a couple of times, but went back to his old habits. He said he became fidgety if he goes without smoking for a day.

“The urge is very clear at this point,” he said.

Yaman has nicotine patches in his room, but said one still  “sort of miss[es] the sensation of inhaling something.” He admits to smoking more frequently around people who also smoke and does it more often while he drinks.

For some people, friends and family are a big influence, both positively and negatively.

Lori Mitchell, a nurse manager at the SUNY New Paltz Health Center, used her 17-year-old daughter as an example.

“None of her friends smoke,” Mitchell said. “I believe this new generation is more in touch with the environment.”

However, Yaman has grown up around smoking, which has influenced him.

“When you see that your dad is smoking, you know that it’s wrong but you know that it’s not as wrong or as bad as something he wouldn’t do,” Yaman said about his father, who has been a smoker for 20 years.

Yaman plans to quit smoking before having a child, so he won’t influence his children with his habit.

“I think the perfect idea to quit smoking has not come around yet,” Yaman said. “We’re not doing enough to encourage people not to smoke.”

Luiza Canetti Grinstein

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