McElroy: Smoking use down


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Buried under the avalanche of alcohol-related controversies going on at the University of Iowa lies a nugget of positivity: Student cigarette smoking is at a 20-year low.

Since 2009, cigarette use among students has gone the way of the Titanic. Six short years ago, use was at 29.8 percent of students according to a National College Health Assessment survey. In a sign that the university is not entirely composed of self-destructive heathens, it has fallen to a cool 18.3 percent this year. Eat that, Joe Camel.

The chaos caused by Iowa’s now-infamous No. 2 party-school ranking and the subsequent game of administrational hot potato has managed to snare the university’s full attention. Instead of an all-out blitz on alcohol, the university could couple alcohol awareness with cigarette awareness to create a dynamic one-two punch.

After all, despite hitting that 20-year low, the UI still has work to do. Student cigarette use remains higher than the national campus average (which was 14.4 percent in 2011). Sure, no coincidence the marked decline coincided with the campus-wide smoking ban that took effect in 2008, and my still-pink lungs applaud the ban wholeheartedly, but more effective enforcement of the ban could further curb cigarette use.

The social stigma created by the ban, as well as the casual enforcement, has nearly cut smoking by the expected 50 percent. Cracking down on public smokers would exacerbate the already-free-falling cigarette use.

The university’s efforts to cut alcohol use are valiant and entirely necessary, but Palcohol shouldn’t consume the administration like it reportedly does students. Creating a joint initiative to drastically reduce the defiant use of both deadly substances is the best course of action because, by killing these two birds with one stone, the university will be saving countless numbers of Hawkeyes.

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