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Playing With Fire: The Health Hazards of Smoking Cigarettes

(The Verge) – On college and university campuses around the country about a third of the students enrolled, smoke cigarettes. It is commonplace to smoke, especially in public or during social events in order to feel accepted or look cool in the company of others. Students are often overwhelmed with the stress of coursework that includes: writing papers, taking tests, quizzes, and presenting projects in class. Some students turn to cigarettes in order to calm their nerves while others use it as a way to lose weight but it comes at an awful price.
According to The Center for Disease and Control Prevention, the adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States. Research shows that more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.
“A Third of College Students Smoke,” by Melissa Schorr reports: Men and women now smoke cigarettes in equal numbers, but because men tend to use cigars and chewing tobacco more often than women, the percentage of male smokers is higher overall. Whether women will close the gender gap in cigars and chewing tobacco remains a concern, researchers say.
“College students are playing with fire, putting themselves at risk of a lifelong addiction to nicotine,” says lead author Dr. Nancy Rigotti, director of tobacco research and treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Cigarette smoking is known to be a nuisance, but what are college campuses doing about the matter? Image taken from: ancawr.files.wordpress.com

Cigarettes are the single-most traded item on the planet, with approximately 1 trillion being sold from country to country each year. At a global take of more than $400 billion, it’s one of the world’s largest industries. They contain more than 4,000 ingredients, which, when burned, can also produce over 200 ‘compound’ chemicals. Many of these ‘compounds’ have been linked to lung damage, according to Listverse.com.
“Use of tobacco products goes along with a generally riskier lifestyle,” Rigotti says.
Researchers are advocating that all buildings on college campuses should go completely smoke-free, banning smoking from dorm rooms and common living areas. “This would protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke and reduce the visibility of smoking on campus,” Rigotti says. At Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., for example, the online student handbook notes that smoking is banned in all common areas and student bedrooms. But several colleges still allow smoking in individual dorm rooms. “Tobacco use is rising among young Americans,” Rigotti warns. “If this trend continues, it threatens to reverse the decline in U.S. adult smoking that we have witnessed over the past half-century.”
Stanford University professor Dr. Robert Proctor looked through tons of public documents to find out what tobacco companies put in cigarettes. Cigarettes contain arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, urea (a compound found in urine), Levulinc acid(used in cleaning solvents) and 43 known carcinogens.
You may wonder—why these ingredients? Nicotine, the main addictive chemical in all cigarettes, and other ingredients are designed to make it harder to quit. The nicotine content in several major brands is reportedly on the rise. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Health Department revealed that between 1997 and 2005 the amount of nicotine in Camel, Newport, and Doral cigarettes may have increased by as much as 11 percent.
But there is a new trend that has gained mass support and appeal from both users and health care providers. Electronic Cigarettes, better known as “e-cigs” look very similar to regular tobacco cigarettes, glowing tip included. They provide the user with nicotine and are considered a much safer alternative to regular cigarettes as they do not contain any of the 4,000 harmful chemicals associated with cancer and other diseases, according to no-smoke.org.
Electric cigarettes work on the basis of heating up and vaporizing a liquid called e-juice, which consists primarily of 3 main ingredients: water, flavoring, and nicotine. The “smoke” emitted by electric cigarettes is actually just harmless water vapor. It does not produce any harmful second hand smoke, nor does it leave any awful cigarette smell behind and it is battery operated.
If anything, electric cigarettes can be thought of as an alternative to stop smoking products like nicotine-gum or nicotine-patches. All of these products accomplish the same task of providing the user with a controlled amount of nicotine without the added chemicals of regular cigarettes. For hundreds of thousands of cases of preventable smoking related cancers and illnesses, the solution could be a simple switch to electric cigarettes
As electric cigarettes become more mainstream and integrated into society, the question of whether or not they are safe has to be addressed.
Monmouth University students responded to a poll conducted on April 4, 2013 about smoking on campus. Nancy Reza, a sophomore majoring in Fine Arts said, “I quit smoking in December. I loved smoking and I miss lighting cigarettes up, but I did it for my own health.” Another student commented on defending his position on smoking cigarettes. Kyle Matthews said, “I heard they are banning smoking on campuses around the country. I smoke in order to calm my nerves.” He adds, “I have ADD and it gets harder to concentrate, so nicotine helps.”
Cigarette smoking on college campuses has become an important public health issue although there has been an increase in campus-wide smoking bans and other preventative programs to reduce the rates of students smoking.
The cigarette: slowly killing Americ….but wait! Are we reversing this trend? Image taken from: uhaweb.hartford.edu