Survey finds U students’ tobacco use decreasing

Tobacco use among 18- to 24- year olds is down more than 4 percent, according to the survey.

Emily Kaiser

Current tobacco use among 18- to 24-year-old undergraduates has decreased more than four percent in the last year, according to two new surveys Boynton Health Service released Thursday.

The survey results were released during the “Healthy Campus: Tobacco-Free Summit,” a conference held at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs building.

“All of the folks there, were from college campuses across the state, and they are part of a network that is working on prevention and cessation for students on their campuses,” said Dave Golden, public health and marketing director at Boynton.

The survey is an annual, random-sample survey given to more than 3,000 students.

According to the survey, 28.2 percent of 18- to 24-year-old undergraduates are current tobacco users. A current user is considered anyone who has used tobacco in the last 30 days, said Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton.

Ehlinger said the problem of tobacco use in college has not been addressed in the past.

“We decided to try and make tobacco use by 18- to 24-year-olds a priority on this campus, throughout Minnesota and nationally,” he said.

Ehlinger said anti-smoking advertisements have been targeted toward younger teens, even though more than half of the University students surveyed said that they used tobacco for the first time after age 18.

Gerald Rinehart, associate vice provost for student affairs, said health greatly affects student performance at the University.

“It is something as an institution we have to be concerned about,” he said.

Ehlinger said the April 2005 Minneapolis smoking ban will help the University’s continued effort to lower tobacco use among students.

“I believe the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants will have an incredible impact on tobacco use,” he said.

Part of the attempt to make campus smoke-free included banning smoking in residential halls, Golden said. Previously, students were allowed to smoke in private rooms, he said.

“We were happy from the standpoint that it was another avenue that makes it easier for people who don’t smoke to always have clean air,” he said.

Mannix Clark, associate director of Housing and Residential Life, said the residential halls became smoke-free in the fall of 2001.

“Students brought up that less than 10 percent of students requested smoking rooms, so we decided to give it a try,” he said.

Mannix said they have had very few complaints since going smoke-free.

Ehlinger said that when residential halls became smoke-free, tobacco use on campus decreased.

“The drop was probably due to a lot of different factors, but we think that contributed,” Golden said.

Apartment housing off campus rarely is completely smoke-free, said Sandra Sandell, director of Initiative for Smoke-Free Apartments, who presented at the summit Thursday.

Sandell said that her association is working toward smoke-free housing on a voluntary basis. The group gives out information on how to adopt a smoke-free policy in apartment buildings.

Sandell said if someone lives in a smoke-free room, smoke from other rooms often travels through buildings.

Rinehart said that although the number of student tobacco users is high, students on campus are trying to quit.

According to the survey, 73.6 percent of tobacco users have tried to quit one to three times in the last year.

“It’s a really addictive substance and for some it will be more difficult than others,” Golden said. “We just need to make sure they are getting the services they need.”

Mike Urlick, a sophomore political science student, said the survey doesn’t surprise him. He said he and most of his friends smoke.

Urlick said the University’s effort to prevent smoking is not going to be effective.

“I think it’s a waste of money because students will quit if they want to and on their own time,” he said.