Smoking: Even Worse Than You Thought




The findings of a recent study add at least five diseases and 60,000 deaths a year to the list of tobacco related risks in the U.S. Risks already include lung cancer, artery disease, heart disease, chronic lung disease and stroke. But researchers found that smoking significantly decreased the immune system and increased risks of infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease and heart and lung ailments not previously linked tobacco. The new findings are based on health data from nearly a million people who were followed for 10 years. It’s published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Despite this latest piece of bad news, the smoke is still trailing in the quad outside of Southern Oregon University’s Stevenson Student Union. Here you will see smokers of various demographics: the uniformed dining hall workers, handfuls of students chatting in circles between classes, a veteran searching his backpack for a lighter, a stiletto-clad professional finding her way back to the same table for the second smoke break of the hour, and Mindi Nagle smoking one of the 12 American Spirits she consumes daily.

Mindi, a senior studying Professional Writing with plans to pursue graduate school, has been smoking since the age of ten. She grew up in Kentucky, the nation’s second largest tobacco-producing state, where “nobody doesn’t smoke.” She finds Oregon less smoker-friendly than Kentucky, though she notes that people are more accepting towards smokers on the SOU campus than in downtown Ashland.

SOU is not part of the movement towards smoke-free campuses already adopted by 975 college campuses across the U.S., including Oregon Health & Sciences University, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Portland Community College, and most of Portland State University.

Although opting out of the smoke free initiative, SOU does enforce some restrictions. Current campus smoking policies prohibit smoking tobacco products in all university owned buildings and vehicles, and within 15 feet of entrances. Students who violate the policy are reported to the Office of Student Affairs. Alissa Kolodzinski has confirmed that in her nearly two years as the Hannon Library Building Manager, she has never received smoking complaints or had to cite any student violations.

In June 2013 the policies were extended to include electronic cigarettes, which are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. “We don’t know what kind of chemicals are in those e-cig juices. At least I know how this is killing me,” Mindi says between drags of her cigarette.

Research from the 10-year observational study funded by the American Cancer Society finds that smokers die 20 times sooner and are at a higher risk of contracting 21 different diseases including 12 types of cancer than nonsmokers. The study looks specifically at the correlations between the behavior and health of smokers, finding that smoking can weaken the immune system and worsen the outcome of diseases.

Mindi is conscious of the dangers associated with smoking and has tried to quit multiple times over the past thirty years. But so far she remains at the table on her smoke break.

If you too are among the roughly 42 million Americans whose vice of choice is smoking cigarettes and you are interested in quitting, SOU does provide options for support. Visit the Student Health and Wellness Center for addiction counseling, or check out SOU’s collegiate recovery program at CORE meetings in Susanne Homes room 106 Tuesdays 12:30-1:30 and Wenesday evenings 7-8.