Puffing Away

Almost a fifth of college students are regular smokers, according to a new report from the American Lung Association. Yes, that is where I began smoking big time. Of 119 institutions in another study the ALA cites, students at 109 institutions reported seeing promotions at a campus event. “The industry return is staggering,” says Bernadette Toomey, the ALA’s CEO. “Every student in America has a target on their back as far as the tobacco industry is concerned,” she added. A target that is, in terms of adding to the nation’s number of addicted smokers. For teens, the transition from high school to college represents “a prime time for developing and cementing new behaviors like smoking.” The industry, not surprisingly, takes advantage of this period of vulnerability by sponsoring promotions in bars and nightclubs in an effort to move young people from smoking only occasionally to “pack-a-day” smokers, which I was until I finally stopped.

How stem this tide of life-threatening activity that can cause cancer, lung disease and other often fatal illnesses? Toomey emphasizes that colleges and universities have a responsibility “to provide same spaces in which their students can learn and live, an atmosphere, that is, free from the kinds of advertising that encourages young people to use deadly products like tobacco.  The ALA urges the higher education community to eliminate exposure to second-had smoke by 2010. The first of the challenge’s initiatives is to prohibit tobacco use in all campus buildings, including residence halls and offices. The second is to stop the sale and advertising of tobacco on campus grounds and in college publications. These are goals well worth pursuing, especially when it is remembered that 90 percent of adult smokers began before age 20.

I see many young and educated looking adults on Manhattan streets puffing away, and wonder at the power of the tobacco industry that can so effectively lead them into illness.

George Anderson, S.J.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
8 years 11 months ago
As effective as the tobacco industry's efforts appear to be on college campuses--something I was not fully aware of--such efforts pale in comparison to the industry's efforts in the Third World, where anti-smoking campaigns and programs are often underfunded and understaffed. Once again, the world's poor are fodder for the ugly side of capitalism.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Rohingya refugees wait to receive aid Sept. 21 at a camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. (CNS photo/Cathal McNaughton, Reuters)
This year the Grand Bargain on refugees seems increasingly fragile.
Kevin ClarkeSeptember 22, 2017
Residents mourn on Sept. 20 for the 11 victims killed in a church in Atzala, Mexico, during the Sept. 19 earthquake. A Catholic bishop in Mexico said the situation was extremely serious, and much aid would be needed. (CNS photo/Imelda Medina, Reuters)
The earthquake feels like yet another crisis tearing at our transnational families. The earthquake was a natural disaster, but the many ways American society fails to value the lives of foreigners, of immigrants, of its own citizens, because of their skin color or their Latino heritage is a
Antonio De Loera-BrustSeptember 22, 2017
“It is good to rediscover our history and welcome the diversity of the people in the United States.”
J.D. Long-GarcíaSeptember 22, 2017
These photos were taken August 16, 1920, at St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane. Salmon had been on a hunger strike for 34 days. (National Archives and Records Administration via the website BenSalmon.org)
The courageous witness of 'unarmed prophet' Ben Salmon—precisely one century ago—anticipated a major development in Catholic doctrine on war and peace,.
Barry HudockSeptember 22, 2017