University study analyzes tobacco, other drug use

Two-year colleges see nearly three times more tobacco use than four-year schools do.

Jamie VanGeest

The smoke has cleared when it comes to the number of college students using alcohol and tobacco.

On Tuesday, the University released the data for the 2005 Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Drugs 17 School Study.

This study is unique because it is the first to include data from a variety of schools around the Twin Cities and is the first to compare data among two and four-year colleges, said Ed Ehlinger, director and chief health officer at Boynton Health Service.

According to the study, 6.3 percent of four-year college students use tobacco, while 18.4 percent of two-year college students use tobacco.

“I think the reason why there are differences between the colleges is because two-year schools have more people over the age of 25,” Ehlinger said.

While 10 percent of the student body at four-year schools is older than 25, it is 30 percent at two-year schools, he said.

More students 25 and older use tobacco than younger students, according to the study.

Another difference is the age of first use of tobacco. At four- year colleges, 74.9 percent of smokers started before they turned 18 and 22.9 percent started between the ages of 18 and 21.

At two-year colleges, 84.3 percent of smokers started before the age of 18 and 13.7 percent started between the ages of 18 and 21.

“I think that people start smoking in college because of stress,” said Laura Karkhoff, a bioscience junior.

About 58 percent of current tobacco users 18 to 24 do not consider themselves smokers. Approximately 30 percent of current tobacco users 25 and older think of themselves as smokers, the study reports.

There was also a strong correlation between smoking and high-risk alcohol use. In the study, five drinks or more is considered high-risk.

For nonsmokers between the ages of 18 and 24, 29.9 percent have participated in risky drinking behavior, while 70.5 percent of smokers have participated in risky drinking, according to the study.

“I think that just because you drink, it doesn’t mean you will smoke,” said Eric Feigum, a junior in the College of Education and Human Development.

Seventeen schools within 80 miles of the Twin Cities participated in the study, including eight public two-year schools. Also, seven four-year private schools and two public four-year schools, including the University of Minnesota, participated, the study reports.

Schools from as near as Hamline University and as far as St. Cloud State were included in the study. The study looked at more than 87,000 undergraduates.