With the onset of the New Year come the annual New Year’s resolutions – pledges of self-improvement and half-hearted written reminders to finally sign up for that gym membership. Just as that note will likely remain on many desks for months to come, so will Boston University’s ever-present crowd of smokers continue to light up.
Those students looking to get their nicotine fix do not have it easy in the colder winter months. They are relegated to the few, outdoor areas designed for them near college buildings and residence halls. Or, worse, to the snowy streets.
Despite this discomfort, few smokers said they included quitting on their list of New Year’s resolutions.
“I’ll probably quit when I feel like I’m dying,” College of General Studies freshman Ryan Cheung said. “For the short-term at least, I think I’ll be fine.”
School of Management sophomore Azfar Zain echoed this sentiment.
“Further down the road, I will definitely want to quit, but for now I don’t really see the point,” Zain said.
In February of 2009, the city of Boston banned the sale of cigarettes in pharmacies and on college campuses in an effort to deter students and young people from smoking. However, cigarettes remain available at both CVS, which boasts two locations on Commonwealth Avenue, and 7-Eleven in Kenmore Square.
On the federal front, last week, regulators in the tobacco industry generated requirements for tobacco companies to fully disclose all ingredients and subsequent changes to the ingredients of cigarettes and tobacco.
“Up to now, tobacco products have been the only mass-consumed products for which users do not know what they are consuming,” Dr. Lawrence R. Deyton, director of the Center for Tobacco Products of the Food and Drug Administration told The New York Times.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at BU asserts on his blog dedicated to the news and analysis of the tobacco industry that the new requirements will, “add virtually nothing to our understanding of the constituents in cigarette smoke and after its implementation, consumers will still largely have no idea what is in the cigarette smoke that they inhale.”
Siegel attributes this to the fact that the public is already aware of about 8,400 of the chemicals in cigarette smoke, yet this does nothing to make a difference in smoking-related disease. He points out on his blog that as there are more than 100,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, the average consumer will never know exactly what they are consuming.
Despite this uncertainty, many smokers remain unfazed.
“I mean, I know it’s bad for you and everything, but I don’t even consider myself a smoker because I don’t smoke regularly, so I don’t feel the need to quit,” College of Arts and Sciences freshman Maria Datcu said.
Some students at BU said they consider themselves “social smokers” and therefore feel no urgent need to quit smoking.
Many of these social smokers said they do not really feel the need to smoke when home on breaks. However, they said, their smoking habits change significantly during the semester, as they feel influenced by their smoking peers.
“A lot of my friends here smoke, so I started to smoke, plus I smoke whenever I go out. It’s a social thing,” SMG freshman Alicia Leone said.
In an attempt to cope with the stress brought by exams, students say they frequently reach for cigarettes in order to relieve some stress.
“I smoked around 10 or 11 cigarettes a day during finals, which is a lot more than I smoke normally,” Cheung said.
“Cigarettes are also great for study breaks, because it’s something to do that lasts just 10 minutes and then you have to go back to work,” Leone said.
Students who have been smoking long before arriving at BU said they seem to smoke more while at school.
Zain attributes the increase in his smoking habits to both stress and Boston weather, but was a smoker before he came to college. He has multiple family members and friends who smoke, which he said has contributed to his smoking
According to Zain and other smokers, BU specifically has done little to deter or encourage their habits.
“BU doesn’t really do anything to discourage smoking,” Leone said. “I feel like a lot of students, especially internationals, have already been smoking, and the university couldn’t really deter anything from that.”
When asked about their habits, although very few said they have a desire to quit, many of the student smokers interviewed said they wished to remain anonymous if they were to be quoted. While some were concerned about their parents discovering their habits, many simply did not want to be associated with the negative stigma attached to smoking that has become prevalent in American culture in recent years.
“I don’t think BU is particularly smoker-friendly as a university,” Cheung said. “It’s not too bad, but as far as the people who go here, I feel like smokers are still looked down upon a little bit by non-smokers.”
In fact, during one of the interviews conducted with smokers outside Warren Towers, a jogger ran past the group and shouted an angry, “Stop smoking!” over her shoulder.
It appears that though student smokers have found their niche within BU, it remains a largely unpopular, controversial one.
As Datcu pointed out, “there is definitely some animosity there.”