Take a nap. Go for a walk. These are two of the 33 activities to do instead of smoking that are suggested by Smoke Free at Yale, a campus health education group dedicated to encouraging a smoke-free environment at Yale.
But for many Yalies, napping or strolling just will not substitute for their nicotine fix. Despite the recent Connecticut ban on smoking in public places, smoking at Yale goes on, seemingly undisturbed, both individually and in social settings.
According to Smoke Free data, college smoking has increased by 30 percent since 1993. Laura Warren ’06, a peer health educator who ran the Smoke Free at Yale informational booth on Nov. 11, estimated that 13 percent of the Yale population smokes, based on a 1997 survey conducted by University Health Services. According to the American Cancer Society, 28.5 percent of all college students are current smokers. Warren said UHS is currently in the process of designing a new survey, but in the meantime, it is difficult to know how many current Yale undergrads are smokers.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Warren said.
Warren is a Yale Daily News staff photographer.
The large majority of smokers at Yale, however, describe themselves as “social smokers,” meaning they only have one or two cigarettes at a party on the weekend.
“[Social smokers will] smoke if other people are smoking but won’t make a habit of it — and will be slightly contemptuous toward people who do develop such a habit,” one male sophomore said.
Mattias Sparrow ’05 said he thinks the popularity of social smoking makes Yale students more accepting of regular smokers. Sparrow, who grew up in France, said he tried his first cigarette when he was 10 and first began smoking socially at 16, but did not begin to smoke regularly until his freshman year at Yale. He said he now smokes approximately five cigarettes a day.
One female junior said she started smoking during her senior year of high school. She said she started cutting back from ten cigarettes a day to two last week. But she described smoking as more of a psychological dependency than a physical one.
“I just enjoyed alone time,” she said. “Having a cigarette, it makes your day stop for that minute — it kind of stops time.”
Although the junior said she primarily smokes alone, she said she also smokes at parties on the weekend. Avoiding cigarettes in social situations, she added, is the most difficult part of cutting back, especially since most of her friends smoke.
Nicholas Evans ’05 said he smokes maybe a cigarette a week in a social setting but is definitely not a regular smoker.
“I’ll have one cigarette just to kind of chill me out,” Evans said. “It’s easier to smoke at Yale because everyone’s smoking — there’s all these European people. I don’t feel pressured to, but Yale facilitates it.”
It is, however, no longer so easy to smoke at Yale. Connecticut’s Oct. 1 ban on smoking does not only apply to restaurants and bars, but also to dorm rooms in private colleges. Prior to the ban, Yale policy allowed students to smoke in their rooms if all the roommates agreed. Now, smokers are forced to seek refuge in college courtyards and on the street.
According to a statistic provided by Smoke Free, non-smokers are 40 percent less likely to become smokers if they live in smoke-free dorms.
But Sparrow said he was unaware of the change in policy. He said he does not think the new law will affect many, if any, of his friends who smoke because none of them smoked in their dorm rooms before the change.
Sparrow said he knows the health consequences of smoking and will definitely quit when he has children, if not earlier. For now, however, he said he is not too worried about the side effects of smoking.
“I know it’s not good for me,” Sparrow said. “I guess when you’re young, you don’t really think about those things that much, you don’t care that much.”
Warren said 30 percent of adult smokers begin in college, but many students said they expect to stop smoking upon graduation.
Ê”A lot of people know that it’s bad,” Evans said. “But a lot of stuff you do in college is bad for you.”