One small puff for college students, a lifetime of drags for big tobacco companies

Tobacco companies claim victory over college crowds

More stories from Lauren Kritter


Photo by Lauren Kritter

If you walk into any gas station, a large array of cigarettes are hard to miss and are available to anyone over 18 for purchase.

It’s no secret there are tobacco smokers on every college campus. In Eau Claire for example, whether you walk down Water Street at bar close or go into a gas station where students are choosing from the wide variety of cigarettes available, tobacco smoking is prevalent.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, adults from age 18 to 24, (the primary age of college students) represent the youngest legal targets for tobacco industry marketing.

The tobacco industry uses our young, shapeable minds to their advantage and is a cause for why nearly half of all college students have tried a tobacco related product in the last year.

Being a college student, I know the amount of stress a full-time student undergoes in a typical week. The number of items and activities we attempt to cram into a single week can become unhealthy, especially when we try and maintain a social life on top of it.

We need time to destress from one hectic week to the next.

I get it. Lighting up a cigarette is a fast and easy way to release that built up stress. It gives a personal an outlet to chemically calm their nerves; until five minutes later when the craving for another one sets in because the body has become so dependent on its effects.

There are some people who come to college with a smoking habit set in place. Whether it’s because they’ve seen family members smoke all their lives or their friend group in high school was involved with it, it always seems to start by others influence.

This is true for many college students who smoke. They’re out drinking one night and surrounded by it’s presence late after bar close. They don’t see the harm in smoking just one, maybe two cigarettes. What happens when you’re drunk doesn’t count anyway, right?

Personally, I can say that statement is beyond false. One drunken cigarette never means just one.

I used to partake in this activity and started to crave that little high I would feel shortly after the end of a cigarette. I told myself it was only because I was drinking or stressed because of school and work. Once summer came I would realize it was all just a silly habit.

But summer came and the smoking didn’t stop. It didn’t stop because I didn’t want it to stop; I liked the feeling and the social aspect of it.

It wasn’t until a few months later when I set a new year’s resolution of running a half marathon that I remembered how much I enjoy exercising and being in shape.

My first few runs were horrendously painful and my decreased lung capacity wasn’t helping my cause. I could pinpoint exactly why this was happening which made the whole situation even sadder. I was done jeopardizing not only my half marathon training but my entire life.

Like any old habit, it will continue to creep up on me when I least expect it. The temptation starts to decrease over time but in the past two years it has never really gone away completely.

I won’t be the one to tell someone what they can or cannot do with their life because I do believe learning is best done when you experience something for yourself. But if the negative health effects aren’t enough to scare someone then maybe the addiction and reliance created by this little cancer-causing stick might be.

I must say I did exceptionally well in my half marathon, coming in six minutes before my goal time. I can’t put all the glory on my lack of cigarette smoking during that time but it did play somewhat of a role in my success.

I know if I would have succumbed to the manipulative tobacco industry for longer than I did and let their marketing tactics get under my skin, the price I would have paid could have been much worse for myself, something my lungs are thankful I dodged every day.