With this university’s smoking ban in effect, smoke in the air is now more isolated — and so are student smokers.
“I feel like a second-class citizen — alienated,” said Carmen Deanna, a doctoral candidate studying government and politics, while taking a smoking break near McKeldin Library, one of four designated smoking areas on the campus.
Other smokers said being forced to congregate at four small smoking zones separates them from other students and adds to the already harsh social stigma smokers face.
“I think the university is simply following a part of American culture that has demonized tobacco, for good reasons,” said Deanna. “Autonomous democratic citizens should be able to make that decision for themselves.”
This university banned lit tobacco products in July as part of a University System of Maryland policy to eliminate smoking from its member institutions’ premises. University officials designated four areas where smokers can still light up, marked by signs on the south side of McKeldin Library near Somerset Hall, between Riggs Alumni Center and the Stadium Drive garage, west of the main staircase in front of Comcast Center and between Byrd Stadium and Ellicott Hall.
For nonsmokers, the principle of the ban is what is important, showing that this university is concerned about students’ health, said Clark Wright, a junior economics and finance major.
“It represents a progressive view and perspective on where our society is going,” Wright said. “It’s a healthy policy I think. There’s already plenty of reasons for people to quit, and if it’s losing the convenience to smoke outside on campus that does it, good for them.”
But the policy has left smokers feeling less optimistic.
Making it more inconvenient to smoke may help some smokers quit, but quitting is a long process, and in the meantime, commuting to the designated smoking areas is a pain, said Vasilios Tsirigotakis, a junior civil engineering major. Because there are so few smoking areas, students have to make long trips just to smoke, he said, and with a minimal amount of smokers on the campus, it doesn’t seem necessary.
“Between classes, you sometimes get the urge to smoke and then you have to run back over here and smoke and then run all the way back across campus. I’ve been late for a couple of my classes just for that,” said Jay Jha, a junior microbiology major. “I actually want to quit, but I do realize it’s not going to happen overnight.”
In recent years, the popularity of smoking has dwindled to the point where the practice is almost taboo, said Douglas Farrow, 63, who is taking English classes at this university. Smokers pay high prices for a carton of cigarettes, and many institutions and state and local governments enforce tighter regulations on smoking in public — and that shift in social attitudes is a difficult adjustment for those who embrace the practice.
“Smoking was my generation,” said Farrow, who’s been smoking for 47 years. “I grew up with billboards and television ads with little cartoon characters smoking. Smoking was natural. It was what you did.”
For many smokers, a nicotine addiction can be one of the hardest habits to kick, and the process of quitting is different for everyone, said Edie Anderson, smoking cessation counselor at the University Health Center.
A one-time smoker herself, she understands how difficult it can be to decide to quit and stick with it.
“One day, I just decided I was done with it,” Anderson said. “I thought the smell was nasty. I didn’t like the way my clothes and hair smelled. The last pack I had, I just dumped it on the table and weaned myself off.”
One of the most addictive factors of smoking is the habit itself and the associations people have with it, she said.
“You light up a cigarette because you feel like it destresses you,” she said. “But it wasn’t really that cigarette that destressed you, it was that first deep breath.”
As part of her smoking cessation program, Anderson teaches breathing exercises and meditation techniques that people can use in place of smoking cigarettes. The program also provides individual counseling to develop a plan for quitting, nicotine patches to ease the quitting process and five acupuncture treatments, all free. Appointments can be made by calling Anderson at 301-314-9629.
“It’s about becoming aware of your habit and making a choice,” she said. “It’s realizing that that cigarette you’re lighting up is more harmful to your body than the pleasure it’s giving you.”