Senior Ly Madden developed an addiction to cigarettes within a week of arriving to Knox for orientation week. The closest gas stations in her hometown were not within walking distance. Upon arriving at Knox, Madden immediately noticed the availability of cigarettes close to campus and quickly developed an addiction.
“When I came to Galesburg I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, this is so crazy, you can go walk and buy a pack of cigarettes. This is madness,” she said.
For sophomore George Jensen, coming to Knox provided a newfound freedom that allowed him to smoke cigarettes without worrying about parental restriction. He was first interested in smoking around age 17, but was warned against it by his parents.
“I googled ‘cigarettes’ on the family computer and my parents caught me and they were like, ‘listen, if we catch you smoking, we’re going to liquidate your college fund and send you to boarding school,’” he said.
He got around these restrictions by only smoking when he was out late with friends. Jensen feels that he does not have an addiction to nicotine, but instead uses the act of smoking to pass the time or alleviate boredom.
“I find that I’ve come now to associate periods of boredom with smoking,” Jensen said. “At this point in my life, there are some gaps in time where I’m not doing anything. So instead of walking around I can walk and smoke at the same time.”
Senior Daniel Monnier also noticed a change on campus, saying that he sees fewer people smoking now than he did as a freshman. He feels that there are now more restrictions on where people can and cannot smoke.
When first arriving at Knox, Monnier and his suitemates used smoking cigarettes as a way to get to know each other.
“If we were all doing homework or all individually busy ,that would be the way we [would] all kind of congregate, over a smoke or two,” he said.
Smoking eventually transitioned from a social activity to one that Monnier sought out on his own. It provided an excuse for him to take a short break while still engaging in an activity.
“Whenever I had to write a long paper and stay up doing it, I would buy a pack. And that’s when I started smoking a lot at a time,” Monnier said. “It was kind of something I did on my own to feel more productive and more together mentally.”
Monnier hopes to quit for several reasons. He cited the price of cigarettes, as well as the negative health outcomes as reasons for his wanting to quit.
“I also don’t like the way I feel after having smoked,” he said. “I don’t really like the smell that much. It doesn’t occur to me until after I’ve quit for a day or two.”
Like Monnier and Jensen, Madden also emphasizes the social aspect of smoking, noting that she doesn’t smoke when she’s not around a group of people who also smoke. During a two year break from Knox, Madden remembers hardly smoking. Upon returning, the habit picked up again.
“It’s a nice social lubricant in that it’s not intoxicating in a way, but you can have an excuse to leave somewhere or talk to a friend privately,” Madden said.
Sophomore Emma Cullnan also felt conflicted with thoughts of wanting to quit, but finding it hard to do so around others who smoked. While it was easy to continue the habit at school around others who smoke, it was not as easy around peers who did not. To combat the addiction, Cullnan has since turned to vaping.
I would feel so guilty for smoking, but I would do it anyway,” she said. “Obviously it’s super easy when all your friends smoke. But if you’re around people who don’t, you’re like, ‘oh, I’m just going to step outside for a smoke really quick,’ and then you come back in and you smell disgusting.”
Unlike Cullnan, who mentioned experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when trying to quit smoking cigarettes, Monnier feels that, for him, quitting has more to do with the social context than the chemical reactions.
“Quitting isn’t hard in terms of suffering and finding it difficult,” Monnier said. “It’s just easy to go back. It’s not like a painful process, it’s just impulsive.”