Does your major come with secondhand smoke?

By Ellen Garnett
Contributing Writer

 

Graduate student John Amey seems to think so, and so do the statistics.

As a 24-year-old graduate student who is studying library science at Simmons, Amey finds himself taking a drag of his cigarette here and there to unwind. He believes that his three-year on-and-off smoking habit has a close association with his major, and he just may be right.

A recent story makes a strong connection between college majors and smoking. For instance, about 21 percent of science, mathematics, and engineering majors smoke, the lowest rate among college majors, according to a 2009 article from College Student Journal.

“I think it’s maybe the stress,” said Amey about why other people smoke. “With library science, it’s socializing and interconnectedness. It’s something that brings us together.”

An article from College Student Journal revealed that business majors have the second lowest rate of smokers at 30.2 percent; arts, design, and performing arts at 30.8 percent; social services and human services at 34 percent; and communications, languages, and cultural studies have the highest rate of smokers at 37.4 percent.

Perhaps what is most interesting about the statistics is that they dispell the belief that art majors smoke the most.

“I have nothing against art majors, but I feel like art majors are more likely to smoke,” said 18-year-old Olivia Bush, a Simmons student majoring in psychology.

Bush, who has never smoked cigarettes, reflected on the impact that cigarette usage has had on her parents. Both of her parents smoked cigarettes and her father quit a few years ago. This past year, Bush’s mother quit smoking cigarettes after she volunteered to give her kidney to Bush’s grandfather, who smoked his whole life. While she admitted that she is not opposed to smoking, Bush acknowledged that there is a different perception of smoking.

“I feel like if you’re going to smoke this day and age with all the information out there, you’re just looking for attention,” said Bush.

Surprisingly, with all the attention on smoking, Simmons doesn’t have current statistics on the habit. The information is unavailable, and the last time it was updated was nearly four years ago.

Residence Life Coordinator Vanessa Martinez confirmed that the housing survey annually sent out during the summer does not specifically ask whether or not students smoke. Instead, it asks if students mind smoking.

“We certainly ask people when they come to the health center if they smoke, but we don’t have the percentages [of students who smoke],” said Simmons Medical Director Dr. Kay Petersen. However, she estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of Simmons students smoke.

A recent study featured on ABCNews.com done by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health asked more than 14,000 students at 119 colleges nationwide about their use of tobacco products and found that approximately one-third of college students smoke.

Meanwhile, the fall 2012 Reference Group Executive Summary by the American College Health Association reported that the percentage of college students who had any cigarette use within the past 30 days is 16.7 percent for males, 11.4 percent for females, and total of any cigarette use within the past 30 days is 13.2 percent. This would mean that Simmons is in line with the national figure of college student cigarette usage.

According to the 2011 National Health Interview Survey by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, “Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree were less likely than adults with less education to be current smokers and more likely to have never smoked.”

Bush suggested an alternative for a student’s major as the influence on whether or not they smoke.

“I think it’s how you were raised,” said Bush. She mentioned that even though both her parents smoked, they strongly discouraged her from smoking.

While cigarette usage is not the hottest health-related issue, it remains in the forefront of the college community. As students go forward with their studies, they may have to keep in mind how their majors affect their health.

Amey is unfazed.

“The statistics don’t worry me,” said Amey. “It’s my way to relax.”