When talking about smoking on campus, many students refer to the cloud of smoke outside the library as the area where students, staff and faculty who smoke tend to congregate. With the proposed campus-wide smoking ban still on the table, the discussion should not just include the library’s cloud of smoke but the people within it, too.

It seems as though smoking is not just an addiction to these students. Instead, it is viewed as something communal, relieving, freeing but that also comes with stigmas, entrapment and, with the possibility of the smoking ban being enacted, even more restrictions.

A Social Start

Dan Eastman, a fourth year ASL-English Interpretation student, said he fell into smoking easily. “I grew up around smokers. My parents smoke, a lot of people in my family smoke,” he said. “I saw it as a normal thing when I started it. It’s just something that happened. My friends did it.”

The social aspect of smoking can influence smokers’ current habits. For Adam McVicker, first year Fine Art Photography student, smoking used to be just a social activity. “I started smoking this past summer regularly. But before that, I used to smoke socially,” he said.

Smoking socially can be the start of many people’s habits but the social aspect of smoking is also one of the reasons that students continue wanting to smoke. For Julia, first year Photographic and Imaging Arts student who asked to have her last name excluded, it can be one of the reasons that quitting is difficult, too. She said she considers quitting often but finds that “when you are around people who smoke, it is impossible to not smoke.”

On the other hand, Jared Gooze, first year Applied Arts and Science students, sees the social aspect of smoking as a reason to keep going. Like many of the students who do smoke, he does so outside the entrance to the library. “This is the social spot. This is where everyone else hangs out.”

“Smoking to me and to a lot of people is a social activity. It’s a great way to meet people — great way to talk to people,” says Gooze. Living off campus, smoking is the main way Gooze finds time to socialize with other students; he said he worries that the proposed campus wide smoking ban will take away that prospect if it is passed.

Smoking provides a common bond where people feel comfortable walking up to each other to ask for a light or a cigarette, to talk about their favorite brands of cigarettes or something else entirely.

Deep Breaths

Julia has been smoking on and off since she was 15 years old but it started to mean more to her when she found that it was something she did for herself. “I started smoking pretty regularly after I broke up with a boyfriend. It was more of just a doing my own thing.” She said she began to see it as a “rite of passage, smoking a cigarette and driving my car. You feel like you are just owning your own moment, like a quiet moment with yourself just in between classes.”

Other students found comfort in these moments as well as in the routine of the action. Eastman described his own habit of smoking every time he gets behind the wheel of a car. “I will smoke a cigarette on the way to Wegmans, go into Wegmans for five minutes, then get back into the car and smoke another cigarette.”

Julia said she relates to that description, too and finds that the loss of routine is part of the reason that e-cigarettes have little appeal to her. “It’s like a ritual; lighting your cigarette, finishing your cigarette and e-cigarettes just feel like they don’t complete the whole circle.”

Cigarettes also serve as a method of stress relief for smokers. The ritual, the familiarity and the opportunity to take a moment to breathe all contribute to the appeal of this calming retreat.

Mutual Respect

Students on campus know that their habit isn’t always appreciated by their peers. “Every once [in] a while, I’ll hear the people behind me talking about it,” said McVicker. “I try to be considerate.”

Eastman said he has overheard these conversations, too. “Somebody will sometimes make an indirect comment or some kind of intentional cough or something. And I’m like, ‘Whatever,’” he said but he said he tries to be considerate too, even as he smokes on his long walks down the Quarter Mile to LBJ from his apartment on the other side of campus. “If there’s a group on the Quarter Mile, I’ll position myself away or if someone’s eating food, I would never light up a cig on a bench next to someone eating a sandwich. That’s rude,” he said. “When I’m on the Quarter Mile, I try to blow [the smoke] up so it’s not around with the wind and all.”

McVicker said he also takes conscientious precautions and pays attention to the rules already set in place restricting campus smoking but he does not support a campus wide smoking ban. “They have the rules where you can’t smoke too close to certain buildings and I think that’s fine. I’m okay with that, I’ll willingly abide to that but I don’t think that they should take away smoking in general for people who do smoke.”

Eastman said he knows that his smoking makes him somewhat biased on the issue but he said he tries to see the other side of the argument. “I think it’s kind of restrictive and not really fair but at the same time I can see the other point of view too for people who aren’t smokers and don’t want to be breathing in second hand smoke all the time,” he sympathized. But he also mentioned that he doesn’t see too many people on campus who do smoke. He also said he feels that smoking as a personal choice and should not be restricted on campus.

In the end, when he hears people’s comments or forced cough protests to his actions, Eastman said he brushes it off. “This is my air, too.”