Most people know cigarettes are dangerous, but common misconceptions about smoking might be hurting students more than they realize.
Purdue students partnered with university organizations on Thursday to recognize the 37th annual Great American Smokeout, hosting it at the Córdova Recreational Center. The event was the product of roughly two months of collaboration and preparation by the Academy of Student Pharmacists, Colleges Against Cancer, the Tobacco Free Partnership of Tippecanoe County and the Student Wellness Office.
The Great American Smokeout is a national event promoted by the American Cancer Society, with the goal of informing the public about the risks of smoking tobacco products, as well as offering counsel and potential avenues for smokers who want to kick the habit.
Sarah Shields, a third-year student in the College of Pharmacy and member of the Academy of Student Pharmacists, helped to coordinate the event once before. Though it might seem counter-intuitive to host an anti-smoking event in a gym, Shields said that there was actually a good reason for the venue.
“There’s a lot of students that, even though they smoke, they’re still conscious about their health,” Shields said. “They feel like they can cancel it out by working out.”
Jenna Dormer, a representative from the Tobacco Free Partnership of Tippecanoe County, explained that this idea was not only wrong, but also potentially dangerous.
“There’s a common myth that people think, ‘If I smoke that’s bad for my body, and if I exercise that’s good for my body, so they’ll cancel each other,’” Dormer said. “That’s actually not true. Nicotine restricts your blood flow, which makes (exercise) more difficult and more dangerous.”
Dormer stressed the importance of awareness on college campuses. When it comes to smoking, most students know that cigarettes are bad for your health, but some might look at other tobacco products, such as hookah, as less dangerous – when, in fact, smoking hookah is more dangerous. One hour of hookah smoking does as much harm as smoking more than 100 cigarettes, Dormer said.
Jackie Morris, a third-year student in the College of Pharmacy and the promotions chair for Colleges Against Cancer, has been involved in cancer awareness activism since high school. She said that, despite the health risks, many students are pushed to smoke by social pressures.
“For most people who smoke, I think it’s the social aspect,” Morris said. “They say they’re not addicted, but then they do it when they’re drinking or they’re being social.”
Despite the success of anti-smoking awareness programs in influencing policy and raising public knowledge on the risks of smoking, there remains room for improvement, Dormer said.
“I think that a big focus, at least for us, will be policy changes,” Dormer said. “The Indiana government just passed a smoke-free state law, which is great. But it still doesn’t cover everything ... Policy and education have to go hand-in-hand. We need to be giving people resources to quit, education on why it’s important to quit, even as we’re passing smoke-free policies.”