Smoking Decreases but Remains Public Health Concern
By Jake Larkin
Smoking circles pop up all over Youngstown State University’s campus. There are stretches of people alongside the entryway to DeBartolo Hall, as well as various groups hanging around outside Maag Library and sporadically sprinkled throughout Kilcawley Center’s quarters.
Dominic Ferreri, a YSU student, has been smoking for nearly half his life.
“I started smoking when I was 15,” Ferreri said.
He attributes his smoking habit in the beginning to peer pressure.
“Peer pressure had a lot to do with it. No one made me smoke. For the most part, the kids I looked up to at that age smoked,” Ferreri said. “I don’t remember exactly when I smoked for the first time, but I am sure it was at a party or something.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases and reduces the health of smokers in general. They also report that cigarette smoking causes more deaths than human immunodeficiency viruses, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries and firearm-related incidents.
According to thetruth.com, a non-profit smoking cessation website, cigarette smoke contains about 7,000 chemicals. Some of these chemicals include carbon monoxide, methanol — which is a chemical found in antifreeze — nicotine, arsenic and sodium hydroxide, a caustic compound found in hair removal products.
Thetruth.com also estimated that in the United States, about 480,000 people die of tobacco-related deaths each year. All nicotine-based products can lead to death.
Hookah smoking has grown in popularity among American teenagers and young adults. Many believe that smoking hookahs doesn’t have the same effect on their bodies as cigarettes, but thetruth.com stated that during an average one-hour hookah session, you inhale 100 to 200 times as much smoke as from a single cigarette.
According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette use has declined dramatically since the release of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health in 1964. Even so, about 20.5 percent of men and 15.8 percent of women still smoked cigarettes in 2012, with about 78 percent of these people smoking daily.
Smoking is an expensive habit. According to thetruth.com, U.S. consumers spent an estimated $90.7 million on tobacco products in 2006. Ferreri also said he actually doesn’t like smoking, but it has become a routine for him.
“Honestly, I dislike the habit. I think most smokers would tell you that,” Ferreri said. “It’s not only bad for you, it’s expensive…”
Smoking’s addictive nature is due to the nicotine inside the cigarette. Regardless, Ferreri said that when you’re a smoker, you rationalize your smoking.
“…They are addicting, and I think what those who don’t smoke don’t realize is that getting used to smoking at different points throughout the day make it difficult to stop,” Ferreri said. “For example, with coffee in the morning, on your walk to class, on your break at work or while you’re driving your car. Most of the time, you don’t even think about ‘craving’ a smoke, you smoke one because you are used to smoking one.”
Ferrari said he plans on eventually quitting.
“I suppose I will have to either go cold turkey or seek help. I mean, there aren’t many options out there,” he said. “Hypnosis seems silly, in my opinion, then there are nicotine patches. Honestly, I don’t really know. I will quit for the sake of my health. One would probably ask then why not quit now? My answer would be, because I don’t want to.”
Wendy Thomas has been a nurse at YSU since 1994 and has worked with Student Health Services since 2012.
“I’m not sure if it’s peer pressure that causes students to smoke or not, but I screen students for tobacco use and direct them to St. Elizabeth’s smoking cessation program if they are ready to quit,” Thomas said. “It’s a free program. I referred nine individuals last year. I had several that quit and came back to tell me.”
According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smoking among adults age 18 and older who smoked 30 cigarettes or more a day went down significantly from 2005 to 2012 — from 12.6 percent to 7.0 percent. Still, more than 42 million American adults smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S.