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Stop Smoking

Did you know that nicotine is actually more addictive than heroin? Surgeon General Coop (1988)

Or that smoking just four cigarettes can give a person a 90% chance of becoming addicted and have them smoking for 40 years? British Journal of Addiction (February 1990)

Or that smoking kills more Americans each year than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined. American Cancer Society

The more you learn about tobacco, the better choices you can make. This section is designed to give you the facts and figures you'll need to become more informed and better armed to take up the fight against tobacco. Because after all, when it comes to tobacco, ignorance is not bliss, it's a killer!

College Students and Tobacco Use

No doubt, the college demographic (18-24) has got to be one of the most scrutinized, surveyed and analyzed segments of the population. So since they've got us under the microscope anyway, is there anything that can be learned from the data? According to the 2005 Core Survey, 28.2% of college students indicated using tobacco (cigarettes, chew, or snuff) in the past 30 days. The good news is an even bigger percentage (71.8%) DON'T! And half of the current college smokers would like to quit.

What we also know from the data is that there are some groups (priority populations) on your campus that are more likely to use tobacco because the tobacco industry targets these groups with ads, sponsorships and promotional events in an insidious effort to recruit and maintain them as life-long smokers. They are called priority populations because they are a priority for prevention efforts.

Try to guess which of these campus subgroups are considered priority populations?

  1. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Students
  2. Fraternity Members
  3. Art Students
  4. Women
  5. All of the above
  6. None of the above

The answer is “e.” All of these populations are considered high-risk subgroups.

Priority Populations

Away from home and exploring their newfound freedom, first year students may represent the most vulnerable population to start smoking on college. The absence of parental control, combined with a desire to fit in, may turn students who rarely smoked before college into addicted users. Residence hall students in smoking-optional halls are at high risk because they may develop new friendships with smokers and take up the habit themselves. Smoking is also seen as a way to socialize with others who are clustered together outside.

Fraternity and Sorority members are highly social and may combine smoking with their party behavior. Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Maryland’s unpublished data found approximately 60% of sorority women smoke. (Study done in late 1990s. [Hancock, 2003]) We also know that smokeless tobacco companies have targeted fraternities with their promotions.

Athletes, especially baseball players and rodeo club members, may use spit tobacco more frequently than others. On numerous campuses, spit tobacco use is highest in these groups. Athletes may also smoke cigarettes while not in training.

Smoking is often subconsciously reinforced for art students. While in long studio classes, instructors may dismiss students for regular breaks. When the entire class takes a break, it can turn into one large smoking club. For theater students, what's more dramatic than a tortured character puffing on a smoke? Whether used as a prop or as a symbol for artistic freedom, theater students often show a much higher rate of tobacco use.

Among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, there is evidence that suggests tobacco use exceeds that of the general population. In fact, preliminary studies indicate that lesbians and gay men are 40-70% more likely to smoke than heterosexuals. Smoking is often a stress management mechanism, particularly for those in the process of coming out.

Let's face it — weight tends to be an issue for women. Smoking is often associated with maintaining a lower weight. So for women students in majors where body weight is an issue, such as performance or fashion, smoking may become a common habit.


Did you know that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the country? But people keep on puffin’ anyway. In fact, more than 6,000 Americans under age 18 start smoking cigarettes each day and 2,000 will become regular smokers.1 That’s despite the fact that they have been told over and over again how damaging it is to the human body. Wanna know how badly? More than one in five deaths in the United States is related to tobacco use. And get this, every eight seconds, someone dies from a disease related to smoking. National Cancer Institute

When you smoke, your pulse quickens, causing your heart to beat an extra 10-25 times per minute, or as many as 36,000 additional times a day. This forces the heart to work harder and can double the risk of a heart attack. Cigarette smoking is directly responsible for at least 20% of all deaths from heart disease; it lowers“good” cholesterol levels, causes deterioration of elastic properties in the aorta and increases the risk for blood clots. American Cancer Society. Smokers are also two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease. National Cancer Institute

Cigarette smoke attacks the lungs' natural defenses and can completely paralyze the natural cleansing process. Excess mucus in the lungs will make you more susceptible to colds, flu, bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Continued exposure can lead to lung cancer and lung diseases, including pneumonia and emphysema. Smoking also causes 90% of lung cancer in men and 80% in women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Lung cancer is just one of the serious health risks caused by smoking. Smokers are also susceptible to cancers of the larynx, mouth, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, kidney, cervix and stomach.

Smokers have a much higher risk of developing two major sight-threatening conditions. Macular degeneration can occur when the macula, the central part of the retina at the back of your eye, becomes scarred, robbing the person of central vision. Research has shown that smokers are about three times more likely to develop cataracts, a gradual thickening that develops in the lens of the eye. Smoke can also cause serious irritation for those who wear soft contact lenses. American Academy of Ophthalmology

Irritating gases in cigarette smoke, such as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and others, can cause serious irritation to the sensitive membranes in the nose and throat. The results: a runny nose and the proverbial smoker's cough. Continued exposure can produce abnormal thickening in the throat lining, a condition, when accompanied with cellular changes, that has been linked to throat cancer.

Stained yellow teeth, bad breath and an acute loss in your sense of taste are just some of the less serious consequences of smoking. Smoking as well as the use of spit tobacco or“chew” can also contribute to cancer of the lips, gums and throat.

Smoker's have what is called a“smoker's face.” Characterized by a grayish appearance of the skin and deep lines around the corners of the eyes and mouth, smoker's face is caused by a lack of oxygen to the skin. These conditions occur because smoking constricts the blood vessels in the skin, making it more susceptible to wrinkling.

The negative effects of smoking on the blood vessels leading to the male reproductive organs may mean men can experience erectile dysfunction or even impotency. Smoking can also affect fertility by decreasing sperm count and mobility. In fact, smokers are 50% more likely to become impotent. National Center for Biotechnology Information

Cigarette smoking increases the risk for infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). US Food and Drug Administration

Research is finding a connection between the risk of developing breast cancer and smoking.

Smokers have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition that involves bone thinning. The loss of bone tissue, more prevalent among women, can result in an increase of bone fractures.

The carbon monoxide inhaled with each drag on a cigarette can stay in the bloodstream for up to six hours and the levels are four times higher. Once in the bloodstream, it begins attacking the red blood cells, virtually replacing the oxygen your body needs to function. The process means less oxygen reaches the brain and other vital organs.

Types of Tobacco

Cigar smoking increases the risk of death from cancer of the larynx more than 10 times and cancer of the oral cavity/pharynx by four times.

  • Addiction potential? Cigars contain anywhere from 100 to 444 mg of nicotine. The average cigarette contains 8.4 mg. National Cancer Institute
  • Compared to non-smokers, cigar smokers have a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease and a 45% increased risk of chronic obstructive lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. American Cancer Society
  • Cigars and Cancer FactsheetNational Cancer Institute
  • Spit tobacco actually contains three to four times more nicotine than cigarettes. National Cancer Institute
  • Spit tobacco contains 28 cancer-causing chemicals such as formaldehyde and polonium-210. Oral Cancer Foundation
  • Information from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, including information on snus.

Bidis are small brown cigarettes, often flavored, consisting of tobacco hand rolled in tendu or temburni leaf and secured with a string at one end.

  • One bidi produces more than three times the amount of carbon monoxide and contains more than three times the amount of nicotine and more than five times the amount of tar than one cigarette. Student Health-Care Guide American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Kreteks, the Indonesian name for clove cigarettes, are made from tobacco that has been sprayed in clove oil and contain large amounts of tobacco and unfiltered organic material.

  • Those who use mentholated cigarettes are relatively more likely to experience health consequences compared to other cigarette users due to a cooling effect that allows smokers to inhale more deeply and hold the smoke longer. They are also less likely to want to quit or to quit successfully. National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • Menthol cigarettes are of special concern for African-American students, because 81% of African-American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes compared to 32% of Caucasian American smokers. Koch, W. (2005) Hookah trend is puffing along. USA Today. Retrieved September 5, 2006 from
  • Puffing a hookah can actually put more nicotine in your system than puffing a cigarette. Asotra K. (2006).“Hooked on Hookah? What you don't know can kill you.” The Peer Educator 29(4) (Reprinted with author's permission from the August 2005 article in Burning Issues: Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program Newsletter). Denver, Co: The BACCHUS NetworkTM
  • Smoking tobacco through water does not filter out cancer-causing chemicals. Mayo Clinic

Smoking and Marijuana

A 1998 study conducted at the University of California revealed these results. After assessing the lung biopsies of regular marijuana smokers, researchers found that half of them had 8 of the 10 cellular abnormalities that indicate precancerous changes in the lungs.Check out these other facts:

  • Long-term marijuana use can lead to the abnormal function of the respiratory system resulting in injury or destruction of lung disease (Taskin, 1990; NIDA, 2000).
  • Inhaled marijuana produces three to five times the amount of tar and carbon monoxide found in inhaled cigarette smoke (Wu 1995; NIDA, 2000).
  • Marijuana smokers encounter many of the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers such as daily cough, phlegm, chronic bronchitis and frequent chest colds (Source: Porter, 2002).
  • Unfortunately, many marijuana smokers also use tobacco on a regular basis (Anthony, Warner, & Kessler,1994).

Other Side Effects

1. Effects on the Heart
Marijuana increases heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking; this effect can last up to 3 hours. In one study, it was estimated that marijuana users have a 4.8-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug (National Institute on Drug Abuse). This may be due to increased heart rate as well as the effects of marijuana on heart rhythms, causing palpitations and arrhythmias. This risk may be greater in aging populations or in those with cardiac vulnerabilities.

2. Effects on the Lungs
Numerous studies have shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which further increase the lungs' exposure to carcinogenic smoke.

Marijuana smokers show unregulated growth of epithelial cells in their lung tissue, which could lead to cancer; (National Institute on Drug Abuse) however, a recent case-controlled study found no positive associations between marijuana use and lung, upper respiratory, or upper digestive tract cancers.

Thus, the link between marijuana smoking and these cancers remains unsubstantiated at this time.

Nonetheless, marijuana smokers can have many of the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, and a heightened risk of lung infections. A study of 450 individuals found that people who smoke marijuana frequently but do not smoke tobacco have more health problems and miss more days of work than nonsmokers. (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Many of the extra sick days among the marijuana smokers in the study were for respiratory illnesses.

3. Effects on Daily Life
Research clearly demonstrates that marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person's existing problems worse. In one study, heavy marijuana abusers reported that the drug impaired several important measures of life achievement, including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life, and career status.(National Institute on Drug Abuse) Several studies associate workers' marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers' compensation claims, and job turnover.