Smoking Creates Tension on Campus: Got a Light?

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Many teens in today’s society find cigarette smoking to be a stress-relieving social trend. If discovered in high school, the habit can continue throughout college and into daily life. 

Felipe Herrera, a freshman at American University, has been smoking socially for the past two years. He enjoys the burn of smoke on his throat and says it helps him relax. Herrera has hidden his smoking habit from his parents, smoking about one pack per week and sometimes borrowing cigarettes from his friends. 

When he moved to AU his habit didn’t change, but he did run into some issues he didn’t have at home.


“I only know about 10 people here who smoke and all my other friends don’t,” Herrera said.

His roommate Rocco Cimino, also a freshman, knew prior to moving in with Herrera that he smoked cigarettes, but wasn’t aware that Herrera would be smoking while Cimino was around.

“It bothers me deeply,” Cimino said. “When we go out, even with large groups, he’ll smoke and it alienates our friends. They don’t want to be around him when he does it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, 17.8 percent of adults in the District of Columbia smoked, and of those adults that smoked, 18.7 percent were between the ages of 18 and 24. 

AU’s tobacco and smoke-free campus policy and Cimino’s caution regarding secondhand smoke have kept Herrera from smoking in the residence hall. Since Herrera must leave campus to smoke, he goes to the area closest to his dorm, Fletcher Gate.

“Despite being friends and roommates with a smoker, I make the conscious decision not to smoke,” Cimino said. “[We’re all victims] of the tobacco-causing-cancer media storm that’s emerged in the past 16 years.”

According to the American Lung Association, active smoking contributes to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in the United States, but fewer than 10 percent of lifelong smokers will get cancer.

“I’m actually considering quitting soon,” Herrera said. “The other day I had a nightmare that I got cancer so that made me reconsider.”

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