The Prevalence of Tobacco: Fighting Smoking in Europe

12 Nov

While many people do not truly appreciate the effect of the anti smoking campaigns of the United States that occurred starting in the 1960’s-1970, I can assure you that smoking is still a large problem in certain countries. Purdue is lucky enough to have a “smoke free” campus. They force smokers to be at least 30 feet from a building in order to smoke, thus sparing people from the dangerous effects of second hand smoke. They also charge serious fines, if one is caught smoking in a building. The posters posted in the residence halls also advertise these as well. These anti smoking practices tend to encourage people to quit; if one truly wants to quit, one can also go to PUSH and get a stop smoking kit with the patch, etc. Overall, it’s an encouraging environment for someone who wants to quit smoking.

In fact, smoking in Europe has become quite common and socially acceptable. At least, I speak for the French in this case. While I am sure that other European countries like Germany, Italy, and more face the same issues, we find elevated rates still in France. The majority of people here tend to smoke at an early age, as early as 14. To me, this is incredible that one so young should be exposed to such opportunities. Given the anti tobacco ideas that were presented to me as I was younger, I can imagine why it surprised me so much.

Having spoken with various natives of the country, I found that a very large majority of them have been smoking from an early age. Of a group of 5(excluding myself of course), 4 were smokers or had smoked at least once at some point in their life. Now, one also has to remember that college kids range from the ages of 18 to 25, depending on the level of studies they choose to pursue. Of the 4 people, all had started smoking around the age of 14 or 15. In addition, they all had one thing in common: it was through the influence of friends. The social environment here makes smoking seem acceptable, thus encouraging the practice even more. The peer pressure and the social environment often make it difficult for people to resist. Another startling fact was the difference in the smoking rates between men and women. Men are smoking less now, with a 5 to 7% drop per year while more women are picking up the habit. This definitely makes us think a little. We also have to remember that certain cancers are now also becoming more prevalent in women because of the increase in smoking rates for women.

However, on the other hand, the anti smoking campaigns have started being put into effect here for the past 5 -10 years. On cigarette boxes, we see warnings of the dangers smoking can have on your health. While all of us know the dangerous effects of smoking on our health, some people choose to ignore them. I admit that some box slogans are very, very catchy as well. Most tend to rhyme while having some sort of deep message, whether that’s to the smoker itself or to the smoker’s entourage. I saw one earlier today that had a catchy slogan: it said “for every cigarette you smoke, that’s one less year to spend with your children”. It got the point across and would make people think twice before they smoke. In addition, the campus buildings are a “smoke free” area; smokers must vacate the area and go outside, either in front of the building or to the various ashtrays situated on the campus. This was put into effect a few years back and comes with a fine, should people choose to violate the rules. While this does help with the smoking problem, it also causes a bit of a traffic jam with people constantly lighting up directly in front of the building doors, making it difficult to get in and out. I must say that I’m not a huge fan of walking directly into a gray cloud of smoke as I head to and from class. Winter tends to make it worse as well, as people hug buildings closer.

Overall, this makes me realize how lucky the students at Purdue are to have so many resources offered to them. Had I been a smoker, I could find various solutions to quitting, whether that is counseling to getting a “quit smoking” it from PUSH. It’s nice to know that Purdue can accommodate both its smoking and non-smoking students in various ways; this way, everyone is happy. While I’m happy to see that steps are being taken to show the anti-smoking campaign in Europe, one can only hope for a decrease in smoking overall. Given a few years, this possibility is a hopeful one.

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