Light up or butt out: Students discuss smoking benefits and burdens

Justin Lowenhagen
Contributing Writer

Clad in a black jacket and blue jeans, Hayden Deck, a senior English major, lights up outside of James Branch Cabell Library.
Despite Virginia’s recent ban inside of bars and restaurants that took effect Dec. 1, 2009, Deck still finds social benefits to smoking.
“A lot of times people will say, ‘Hey can I borrow a lighter?’ and that can start a conversation and it has, fairly frequently,” Deck said.
According to Linda Hancock, the director and clinician for The Wellness Resource Center, socialization with others becomes a motivating factor for many non-smokers to pick up the habit.
Hancock said there are two types of smokers: smokers who pick up the habit because of feeling awkward socially and those who are social, outgoing people.
Hancock said she specializes in helping smokers quit, and the social, outgoing people take the least time to stop smoking.
“Social people hate the new smoke-free laws that kick them out of the place they want to be, which is where the action is taking place,” said Hancock.
The recent smoking ban has caused many smokers to go outside to smoke instead of lighting up indoors.
While some smokers say they might find common ground over a cigarette, others say the interaction between non-smokers and smokers is becoming more strained.
Jennifer Ferguson, a junior theater performance major, has been dating a smoker for three months. She admits there are times it becomes difficult to deal with his habit.
“I don’t like to breathe smoke; I don’t like secondhand smoke and that’s just inevitable you’re going to encounter it sometimes when you’re dating a person who smokes,” Ferguson said.
While some students said smoking might strain many relationships, others say the relationships themselves can also become a catalyst for starting to smoke.
Deck said it was a breakup with a boyfriend that led him to first accepting a cigarette after a friend offered him one out of comfort. He has been smoking for two years now.
Some students say proximity to smokers can also become a challenge for non-smokers. Being around cigarette smoke can cause temptation for many non-smokers.
Jennifer Vick, a senior theater performance major, said she has dated smokers and has many friends who are smokers. She said being tempted by cigarettes, especially at parties is because of the social interaction.
“Some of the most fun people are outside and you want to be in that conversation, but you can’t be, because you don’t smoke,” Vick said.
Hancock said students who want to try smoking should consider their own family history with smoking and to ask smoker if they would ever reconsider their decision to pick up the pack.
“By the time somebody is a half-pack-a-day smoker, they’re tired of paying the man for their cigarettes and they wish they had never smoked,” Hancock said.

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