Lighting Up: The Rise of Social Smoking on College Campuses

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Smoke Free Campus Act

If you would like us to consider your letter for publication, please include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium. For more from Pacific Standard on the science of society, and to support our work, sign up for our email newsletter and subscribe to our bimonthly magazine , where this piece originally appeared.

Many mental illnesses and addictions are more heavily associated with premature deaths than heavy smoking, yet we tend to be less aware of their risks.

Article on Mimi Nichter, "Lighting Up: The Rise of Social Smoking on Campus"

Though smoking there isn't prevalent, the habits of daily users are extreme. People with mental illnesses have a unique, intense relationship with smoking, which can ease distress as well as kill. Now that a much safer version of the habit is available, it's no time for the anti-smoking lobby to play Nurse Ratched. About this product Product Information Over the Past 40 Years, rates of adult smoking have fallen dramatically, yet young adults continue to smoke substantially more than any other age group.

At a time when just about everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, why do so many college students smoke? Will they eventually give up smoking, either as graduation approaches or once they enter the "real world"? Lighting Up investigates such questions about smoking and explores the experiences and perspectives of hundreds of college students.

Mimi Nichter examines how and why many college students engage in social smoking, emphasizing its key role in students' lives and how different social contexts can either stimulate or inhibit the practice. Nichter examines how smoking can act as a social lubricant, help college students express and explore their identities, or enable them to communicate their emotions.

Although most college students claimed their social smoking was "no big deal" because it was only temporary and most smoked at low levels, they often expressed ambivalence or reluctance to quit once graduation approached. Life after college involves many uncertainties, and a difficult job market heightens stress and instability. For those who have come to depend on the comfort of cigarettes during college, this array of life stressors makes cutting back or quitting more difficult, despite their intentions and understanding of the harms of tobacco.

Further, emerging products, like e-cigarettes, offer an opportunity to move from smoking to vaping. Lighting Up provides a rare glimpse into the role of social smoking in the lives of college students and considers how uncertain times may lead to uncertain smoking trajectories that reach into adulthood.

Book jacket.

Work Explores Social Smoking on College Campuses

Additional Product Features Dewey Edition. Lighting Up is a good introduction to understanding the multiplicity of voices and the benefits of using alternative methods to reveal subtleties in meanings and identities of young adult smokers. Mimi Nichter disentangles and illuminates the lure and social gains of smoking on campus through rich ethnographic accounts. This book helps to unravel the complexity of incentives to smoke among college-age students.

Bennett,author of The Alcoholic Family, "Anthropologist Nichter presents an important new contribution to the literature on youth smoking of interest to both tobacco researchers and general readers. An intelligent analysis that merits the highest praise. Show More Show Less.


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It's a highly addictive agent. Some have said it's even more addictive than heroin or cocaine," King says. It's not just the nicotine that'll get you.

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Other, nonmedical factors collude to further hook users, according to Nichter. For one, smoking remains a major social outlet for many.

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Whining about the boss or the teacher during a smoke break. Sharing a cigarette while talking relationships at a party. Then there's the marketing. Big tobacco is constantly pushing the message at young people that cigarettes are desirable and that smoking is cool.


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  5. Add all that to the common belief that light smoking isn't dangerous — "It's just a couple cigarettes now and then" — and you have the potential to be a future Uncle Joe. It's really about social context," Nichter says. It's a hard trajectory to break. Many of Nichter's subjects, interviewed early in their college careers, figured they would quit before they graduated.

    But somewhere around half of them had not by their senior year, and many began to wonder if they would, given the uncertainty of their futures and the need to remain social. One of the biggest obstacles in getting part-time smokers to quit is getting them to admit that they are smokers in the first place.

    According to Nichter, more than 60 percent of young people who smoke, at whatever level, don't consider themselves smokers. So, if they're not smokers, they don't need to consider the health implications of smoking.