Waiting for the smoke to clear

Emerson College is a hipster college—at least according to a 2014 Huffington Post article, it is. Along with that description comes the idea of being young, on the cutting edge of style. Unfortunately, smoking is sometimes a part of that trend. It’s a common sight to see dozens of students holding Marlboros daily along Boylston and Tremont, yet the fact that it’s one of the worst things you can do to yourself is increasingly well-known to Americans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has even reported rates of this habit dropping by one fifth in the past 10 years. But for some reason, here at Emerson, otherwise health-conscious students continuously take it up. 

It’s not like students don’t know that what they’re doing is bad for them. In 2012, The National Cancer Institute reported that 60 percent of college-aged Americans were trying to quit smoking, and that number is on an upwards trend. The obvious question remains—Why are students starting in the first place? Sadly many kids become addicted while in high school and keep up it up here at Emerson. However, I have also encountered an alarming number of students who did not start until after coming to the college.

Signs of this compulsion at all are troublesome, but here, it’s particularly bad. A recent survey conducted by the National College Health Assessment in collaboration with Emerson Administration reported that 32 percent of the 749 students surveyed are engaged in the practice. Though this is a minority, the CDC reports that nationally, only 16.7 percent of college-aged adults smoke across the country. The college’s rate of smoking is twice the national average, and that is a problem. 

There are many negative aspects of Emerson’s culture that have led to this culture of smoking. Among these are the groupthink and the hyper-stressful lifestyle that comes with being a student here. Worse, these issues feed into one another. Here on campus, being busy to the point of exhaustion has become glorified, and the college does little to discourage students from continuing this unsustainable lifestyle. 

The campus is also at fault for failing to enforce regulations regarding this high-taxed health hazard. The largest issue revolves around students spreading these toxins in entryways and along the sidewalk of Boylston Street. Legally, students are not allowed to smoke within 20 feet of the entrance to any school building. These rules are clearly marked by large signs prohibiting the practice, but in reality, students flock around campus entrances to light up. As a result, even the students who don’t subscribe to this trend are at best inconvenienced, and at worst, subjected to cancer-causing secondhand smog when they just want to get to class. Despite these dangers and posted rules, little is actually done to stop students from congregating. 

The college and the Emerson College Police Department need to crack down on this and make it as inconvenient as possible for students to smoke. If the knowledge of how terrible it is doesn’t stop students from killing themselves, perhaps just plain inconvenience will. 

Right now, the school’s stance on this is basically nonexistent, but this can change. If the college were to advertise an anti-smoking viewpoint as strongly as it advertises its LGBTQ+ friendliness or purported mental health awareness, a stigma against this addiction might be formed. Ignoring the problem is possibly worse than if the school were condoning it. If the issue were at least talked about more than in a single email every semester, then maybe the student body would begin to understand the problem. 

In the end, this failure on the part of the school makes this dependency seem normal. When a freshman sees so many of his classmates lighting up every day, right out in the open, it makes it seem like this is something that the school does not take seriously. Accompanied by very little response from the administration results in the propagation of the smoking culture, and the cycle repeats itself leading to more and more students falling victim to the addiction.