It’s not uncommon to see a number of stressed out students loitering right outside the residence halls in the evenings, with the street lamps throwing a blanket of harsh yellow light on them as they light up and puff on cigarettes.
Unlike many Big Ten schools, MSU’s current smoking policy allows students to smoke on campus, as long as they remain 25 feet away from a building.
While the number of students who smoke in general has dropped since 2000, smoking is still a pastime that many students turn to.
A 21-year-old policy
The current policy at MSU, enacted in 1993, is that “No person shall smoke in any closed space, regardless of location, except specifically designated private residential space and hotel rooms. Smoking will not be permitted near exits and entrances of buildings, except at a reasonable distance or unless otherwise designated,” according to Ordinance 29 of the MSU Board of Trustees.
Reasonable distance, according to the policy, means that smoking is allowed outside but not within 25 feet of a building. For a limited number of places on campus, such as Olin Health Center, smoking is only tolerated 30 feet away. The policy also states that no tobacco products are to be sold on university grounds and that the policy applies to all MSU “facilities and vehicles, owned or leased.”
The 25-foot rule, according to MSU spokesman Jason Cody, is not something that requires aggressive enforcement.
“(Breaking the policy) is not something that people are arrested for and then prosecuted,” Cody said. “If someone is not following the ordinance, usually a simple heads-up is all is needed.”
Students who smoke generally don’t mind the policy, believing that the requests of the university are not particularly demanding.
“I don’t mind (the policy),” said social relations and policy sophomore Nathan Wilson, a smoker. “Twenty-five feet’s a fair distance.”
MSU is part of a shrinking list of Big Ten schools that do not have smoke-free campuses. Seven Big Ten Schools have already implemented university-wide smoking bans.
Cody said there are currently discussions underway on whether to change the policy.
“Right now, the university is forming a task force to take a deeper look at the issue,” Cody said. “Creating and maintaining a healthy workplace is a priority at MSU.”
The possibility of banning smoking on campus is not one many smokers like.
“I don’t really think a lot of people would ... be okay with that,” accounting sophomore Ryan Hurley said. “I don’t think people would really follow it that much either.”
Prevalence on campus
Every two years, MSU undergoes the National College Health Assessment, which was developed by the CORE Institute, with the American College Health Association. The last survey was done during February through March of 2014.
In this assessment, a sample of roughly 1,000 MSU students were surveyed about their health habits.
The survey’s results stated that only 5.2 percent of students had smoked cigarettes six or more days in the past 30 days. A majority 68.3 percent of respondents said they had never smoked a cigarette before in their lives, and 12.3 percent of students, more than half not being regular smokers, reported smoking at least one day out of 30.
To put that in perspective, more students reported having smoked marijuana in the past 30 days than cigarettes. That amount of marijuana smokers was at 20.3 percent, and 11 percent had smoked more than six days in that time frame.
Smoking at MSU in general is declining, as shown by the assessment that took place in 2000, in which almost 30 percent of students reported smoking a cigarette in the last month.
Wilson said there is definitely a stigma attached to smoking in 2014, and thought that others see smokers as gross or lowlifes.
“I think (there’s a stigma to smoking),” Hurley said. “Not so much in college settings, but more in the real world.”
City of smoke
East Lansing provides a lot of variety when it comes to both cigarette smoking and alternative smoking activities.
Any gas station sells cigarettes, as well as a number of convenience stores. However, a newcomer to the East Lansing area might notice that prices for them are a dollar or so more than they would be in other parts of the state. This can make smoking a particularly expensive habit in the East Lansing area.
For the non-traditional smoker, Wild Side Smoke Shop might be a hub. They sell a wide variety of hookah and hookah glassware. Glassware can range from $15 to $1500 depending on the product’s ornateness and effectiveness.
“Hookah tobacco has more saturated moisture to it,” sales representative at Wild Side Brian Kelly said. “It’s more of ... a wet product that you really couldn’t roll into a paper or anything. You do absolutely need hookah-ware, glassware, to use it.”
With the city of East Lansing’s February 2013 moratorium on additional smoke shops and hookah bars opening in East Lansing, one would think that the days for specialty smoking are numbered.
“Hookah’s definitely more of a social thing,” Six Lounge manager Kyle Sandor said. “It’s good for people to get along, hang out and smoke a bit.”
Finance freshman Mikie Wronski, who frequents the Six Lounge, agrees with Sandor about the social aspect of hookah.
“I enjoy the buzz I get,” Wronski said. “This place (has) a relaxing atmosphere.”
Wronski said he has heard that hookah is much worse in terms of the health effects. Sandor commented that, while hookah has much less nicotine, there is no reason to say that hookah is a healthy alternative.
“Hookah vaporizes in your lungs, cigarettes tear open your lungs to get nicotine in,” Sandor said. “That’s the biggest difference. Pretty much it’s both tobacco, either way you smoke it, you’re still going to have the side effects.”
The negative effects of smoking tobacco are widely known, both to smokers and non-smokers.
Cigarette boxes list the common side effects of the habit on the box, such as heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer or birth defects.
For students who may already be addicted to nicotine, Olin Health Center has resources that can help.
Olin offers an individualized smoking cessation program that provides students with an assessment of their tobacco use, readiness to quit, harm reduction strategies and support, according to Marketing and Communications Manager for Student Health Services Kathi Braunlich.
The smoking cessation program does not count toward a student’s three free visits to Olin. Students also are given a LIFE:Rx appointment free of charge.
LIFE:Rx is a program that seeks to help “students and staff at MSU to take charge of their personal health and fitness goals.”
A student who fails to quit their first try does not need to worry. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showed that 62.1 percent of those in the 18-24 age group have tried in the past year to quit smoking for at least a day.
Why a student would want to start smoking can only be answered by speculation. However, for college students, many of whom cannot drink, smoking is a celebratory alternative.
“It’s definitely a bigger thing, coming into a college town,” Sandor said. “It’s very social and you’ve got a lot of freshmen who are under 21 (and) you can’t go to a bar.”