THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF TOBACCO USE
The negative effects of tobacco use go well beyond health
problems. College student tobacco use is also associated with
mental health issues, lower academic performance, high-risk
drinking, illicit drug use, and high-risk sexual behavior.
Health Effects of Tobacco Use:
- Smoking causes more than 440,000 US deaths per year, accounting
for 1 out of every 5 deaths (CDC, 2003).
- Smoking is associated with coronary heart disease, stroke,
ulcers, respiratory infections, lung cancer (as well as
cancer of the larynx, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, stomach,
& uterine cervix), bronchitis, emphysema, early menopause,
and stillborn & premature children (NIDA, 1999).
- Smokeless tobacco users, and pipe and cigar smokers are
more susceptible to mouth cancer, cancer of the larynx,
and cancer of the esophagus (NIDA, 1999).
- College students who smoke have higher rates of respiratory
infections and asthma as well as a higher incidence of bacterial
meningitis, especially among freshman living in dorms (Halperin,
- Women smokers with human papilloma virus (HPV) are at
increased risk of progressing to cervical dysplasia or cancer.
Women who smoke and use oral contraceptive pills are at
higher risk for thromboembolic diseases such as stroke (Halperin,
- Of the 15 million college students in the United States
today, it is estimated that 1.7 million will die of smoking-related
illnesses, most prematurely (Halperin, 2002). That amounts
to over 10.0% of current college students.
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Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS):
- Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), or “second-hand”
smoke, is harmful to both smokers and nonsmokers alike.
ETS is an important student and employee issue on college
- ETS has been classified as a Group A carcinogen by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 1993).
- ETS causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths per
year in US nonsmokers (EPA, 1993).
- The CDC estimates that ETS causes 35,000 ischemic heart
disease deaths per year in the U.S. (CDC, 2002).
- Nonsmokers exposed to ETS have a 20.0% increased risk
of heart disease (Brownson, 1997).
- ETS contains higher concentrations of ammonia, benzene,
nicotine, and carbon monoxide than the mainstream smoke
that smokers inhale (Brownson, 1997).
- The workplace and the home are the top sources of ETS
exposure for nonsmokers (Brownson, 1997). Implementing worksite
smoking policies has been found to have to significantly
lowered people’s exposure to nicotine and the other
dangerous substances in ETS (Hammond, 1995).
- Beyond health risks, people find ETS irritating and uncomfortable.
As far back as 1986, well before the anti-tobacco campaign
was moving at full steam, 71.0% of people reported being
annoyed by ETS (Brownson, 1997).
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Tobacco and Mental Health Problems:
- Mental health disorders have been strongly associated
with smoking, especially among adolescents and young adults.
- Smoking has been associated with suicidal tendencies.
College students who are daily smokers are more than five
times more likely to have either seriously thought about
or attempted suicide than non-smokers (Halperin and Eytan).
- Adolescent smokers are two times more likely to develop
a major depressive disorder than adolescent nonsmokers.
- The relationship between depression and smoking among
adolescents is bidirectional. Depressed teens are more likely
to smoke, and those who smoke are more likely to become
depressed (Brown, 1996).
- A National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) 25-year study
concluded that smoking is connected with several mental
health disorders in adolescents and young adults. Heavy
smokers (>20 cigarettes/day) were 6.8 times more likely
to develop agoraphobia, had 5.5 times the risk of generalized
anxiety disorder, and had 15.6 times the risk of developing
panic disorder than non-smokers and light smokers. These
drastic risk increases are thought to be tied to the damage
that nicotine can do to the blood vessels that lead to the
brain (NIDA, 2001).
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Tobacco, High-Risk Drinking,
Illicit Drug Use, and High-Risk Sex:
- College students who smoke are more likely to participate
in the risky behaviors that pose some of the greatest health
threats to18-24 year olds.
- Concurrent dependence on tobacco and alcohol occurs in
about 10.0% of young adults ages 21-25 (Anthony, 2000).
- Adolescents who smoke are seven times more likely to abuse
or become addicted to illicit drugs than are nonsmoking
teens (Brown, 1996).
- The Harvard College Alcohol Study determined that student
tobacco users are 4.62 times more likely to smoke marijuana
and 3.6 times more likely to engage in high-risk drinking
than are nonsmokers (Rigotti, 2000). Smokers are more likely
to use illicit drugs than high-risk drinkers (Halperin and
- College students who are smokers are 50.0% more likely
than nonsmokers to have had two or more sexual partners
in the last month (Rigotti, 2000). Even light smokers are
over three times more likely to participate in high-risk
sexual behavior when concurrently using alcohol or other
drugs than nonsmokers (Halperin & Eytan).
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Tobacco Use and Lower Academic
- Smokers have lower grade point averages (GPA) than nonsmokers.
The Harvard College Alcohol Study found that smokers are
27.0% less likely than nonsmokers to have an above B grade
average (Rigotti, 2000). Daily smokers were found to have
even lower GPAs than high-risk drinkers (Halperin and Eytan).
- Smoking prevalence in colleges has been found to be lower
at highly selective schools (Wechsler, 1998).
- Lower individual performance among students results in
lower academic overall standings for colleges.
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