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1 in 5 college students continues to smoke

An "unacceptably high" number of college students — roughly one in five in 2006 — continues to smoke cigarettes, according to an American Lung Association report.
/ Source: Reuters

An "unacceptably high" number of college students -- roughly one in five in 2006 — continues to smoke cigarettes, according to an American Lung Association report released Monday. The association says aggressive tobacco industry marketing on college campuses is largely to blame.

To gauge the current status of tobacco use and policies on college and university campuses, the American Lung Association analyzed published research, surveys and tobacco industry documents. Their findings are compiled in a report, "Big Tobacco on Campus: Ending the Addiction."

The report says that in 2005, the tobacco industry spent more than $1 million a day sponsoring events and giveaways targeting college students. In a recent survey of 119 colleges, students at 109 schools reported seeing tobacco promotions in on-campus events.

College students are often social or occasional smokers. "Tobacco companies exploit vulnerability among young smokers by sponsoring promotions in bars, nightclubs, and other venues to encourage smoking as a social norm, moving them from an 'experimenter' to a 'mature' smoker," the report states.

When it comes to college students, "the industry's return on investment is staggering," Bernadette A. Toomey, American Lung Association President and CEO, said in a written statement. "Every college student in America has a target on their back as far as the tobacco industry is concerned."

Toomey believes colleges and universities "have a responsibility to provide safe spaces in which their students can learn and live. This should include an environment free from secondhand smoke and advertising that encourages young adults to use deadly tobacco products."

In the report, the American Lung Association calls upon the higher education community to join the Smokefree Air 2010 Challenge — a nationwide movement to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in public places and workplaces no later than 2010 and reduce smoking-related illnesses, by implementing the following policies and initiatives in this school year:

  • Prohibit tobacco use at all indoor and outdoor facilities, private offices, residence halls and dormitories.
  • Stop the sale and advertising of tobacco products on campus and in college controlled publications, properties and events.
  • Refuse all research and sponsorship funding from the tobacco industry.
  • Provide smoking cessation programs to all students, faculty and staff.
  • Implement and enforce strong policies to aid in the prevention, cessation and elimination of tobacco use across campus.
  • Educate students and faculty about the harmful effects of using tobacco products, the resources available for cessation and campus policies.
  • Promote and fund research to design and implement smoking and tobacco use interventions that specifically target college students.
  • Lobby state legislatures to create laws to prohibit tobacco use on campus.