Flip the lighter open, release a flame and inhale the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States.
According to the American Lung Association, cigarette smoking causes 393,000 deaths per year and nearly 50,000 deaths from secondhand smoke.
At Shippensburg University, smokers are not an unusual sight. Some congregate outside of the library and chat over Starbucks, while others smoke in-between classes to relieve a little exam stress.
In college, students are especially vulnerable to smoking due to a lack of effective coping mechanisms. Living at home, students are surrounded by the comforts of family, friends and familiar sights. Once transplanted to a new place, students may turn to unhealthy habits in order to deal with stress.
“Due to their young age, students may not have a large repertoire of coping mechanisms. The advice they too often receive from peers to deal with stress is to drink, smoke and/or engage in drug use,” Allison Carey, professor of medical sociology, said.
Whether people smoke for the social aspect or to de-stress, the addiction behind this killer habit is the real reason companies like Philip Morris USA sell more than 135 billion cigarettes annually.
What begins as one experimental cigarette can quickly turn into an addiction, Carey said. Among the 600-some ingredients in cigarettes, nicotine is responsible for the addictive quality.
Juntae Kim, a student from South Korea studying accounting, has been smoking for eight years. He has tried to quit several times, but so far his attempts have been unsuccessful.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands, which causes the release of the epinephrine hormone. This dose of adrenaline leads to an increase in blood pressure, respiration and heart rate.
Alex Olson, 20, is majoring in biology at SU. He smokes occasionally, and regrets the habit.
“Honestly, it [smoking] killed my grandfather because he had lung cancer,” Olson said.
Cigarette smoking is the cause of approximately one-third of all cancers, and 90 percent of lung cancer diagnoses, according to NIDA.
Ten minutes of nicotine-laced relief can lead to greater health complications once a smoker crosses over the line to addiction. Trying to quit the habit can even be painful.
“Every time I tried quitting, my everything hurts. It’s awful, the withdrawal is awful,” Robyn Woodley, a communication/journalism major, said.
At age 22, Woodley has been smoking for four years now.
“Every time something really stressful would happen and I would just think, ‘I’d rather just smoke than deal with this,’ even though it doesn’t actually help, it just kind of makes you think that it helps. That’s what the addiction does,” Woodley said.
Popular student destination Wibs allows smoking indoors. Another place for locals to have a smoke and enjoy an alcoholic beverage is Orky’s Bar and Grill. The establishment has always allowed indoor smoking, which patrons seem to enjoy.
“They like the fact that they can sit inside during cold weather and not have to worry about freezing their butts off,” Dave Heiss, a bartender at Orky’s, said.
Heiss has been working at Orky’s for six months. Some of his responsibilities include sweeping ash off the floors and cleaning ashtrays.
“We do have air filters, so that makes extra work for us, you know. We clean all the ashtrays every night and clean the air filters out,” Heiss said.
For those who are trying to quit smoking, a helpful website to visit is www.whyquit.com. In an article titled, “Nicodemon’s Lies” John Polito addresses the lies that some smokers tell themselves to justify their cigarette habits.
If the yellow teeth, bad breath and dependency on nicotine is not enough to deter from cigarettes, consider the impact smoking can have on the people standing outside the fumes.
“My family didn’t really appreciate it [smoking], and they don’t support it, but they’re at the point where if I light up a cigarette they just roll their eyes and just ignore it,” Vikki Glogg, a graduate student in the counseling department, said. “Anybody on campus, I don’t really care what they think of me but when it comes to my family that’s the important one.”
Glogg, 23, may have started smoking six years ago, but she is strongly against the addictive habit.
She refuses to be the friend who gives that first cigarette to a nonsmoker.