SIU campus smokier than most

By Gus Bode

There is a higher percentage of smokers on SIU’s campus compared to others, according to recent statistics.

SIU has a higher smoking rate than the national average for all colleges, according to the 2010 Core Institute Survey.

According to the Institute — the country’s largest national Alcohol,  Tobacco and Other Drug database for college students’ drinking, tobacco and drug use — 19 percent of SIU students reported smoking on a regular basis, which is comparable to the nation’s 13.4 percent average.


Bruce Perschbacher smokes a cigar at Yesteryear Tobacconists Monday while preparing for a large shipment of rare cigars. He and his wife Patti own the shop on Illinois Avenue. Perschbacher, who sells various types of tobacco, said people smoke for different reasons. Sarah Gardner | Daily Egyptian

Michelle McLernon, outreach program coordinator at the Wellness Center, said people are influenced by friends and other social groups who smoke. Non-smokers go to parties over the weekend with friends who smoke and tend to feel pressured to join in, she said.

“The danger in that is … all of a sudden it’s not just the weekends,” she said. “You kind of have this craving for a cigarette at other times, and eventually the addiction kicks in and you can’t control it.”

Deonta Taggett, a junior from Chicago studying radio-television, said he didn’t start smoking until he came to college.

“I smoked just to try it, but I don’t often,” Taggett said. “(I) usually (smoke) only if offered, and even then it’s rare.”

Nearly 47 million Americans reported smoking on a regular basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, tobacco use has significantly declined during the last 45 years.

The CDC estimates that tobacco use causes one in five deaths and costs U.S. consumers more than $193 billion a year.


Cigarette smoking among consumers declined 50 percent between 1965 to 2009, according to the survey. In 1965, 42 percent of American adults smoked. In 2009, however, the survey reports the number has dropped to 21 percent.

Tobacco use is slowing among American adults, but the survey shows there are some areas where it’s more prevalent than others. SIU in particular has a high smoking rate.

McLernon said nearly 30 percent of SIU students reported smoking in social groups, compared to the national 25 percent who report the same activity.

Chun Hsien Wu, a graduate assistant in Africana studies from Taiwan, said he started smoking when he was 20 because of peer pressure.

“I don’t encourage people to smoke a lot because I don’t smoke a lot,” he said.

McLernon said smoking can be difficult to resist when a person is young and constantly surrounded by smokers. She said the peer pressure may be too much for a person.

Stress relief is another reason students say they smoke.

“Sometimes if I feel tired or if I’m stressed, I would smoke a cigarette to help me calm down or relax,” Wu said.

McLernon said nicotine does tend to have a calming effect on people, so it wouldn’t be surprising for a student to use smoking as a stress antidote.

“They’ll calm down once they have that cigarette and it helps reduce some of their stress,” McLernon said. “Unfortunately it’s going to cause them long-term concerns later in life.”