Smoking is a dangerous habit -- and a hard one to quit to boot.
Thankfully, students who want to quit have options to help them at the University of Colorado.
"We're not anti-smoking: We want to make sure everyone is protected from smoke, including the smoker and any bystanders," said Robin Kolble, manager of Community Health, a division of CU's Wardenburg Health Center. "We're here to help people quit, if they want to."
The University of Colorado's Community Health is located in Room 411 of the University Memorial Center. One-on-one counseling is available for smokers looking to kick the habit. All services at Community Health are free to CU students. For more information, call 303-492-2937 or visit healthcenter.colorado.edu/community-health
By the numbers
92 percent of CU students prefer to date nonsmokers and socialize in smoke-free environments
85 percent of CU student smokers thought about quitting in the last six months
6 percent of students on campus are daily smokers
Source: CU Community Health
Kolble offers students one-on-one counseling to help them quit smoking. Along with providing them resources, such as the number for the Colorado QuitLine and "tobacco quit kits" -- which contain hard candies and toothpicks to ease oral fixations and symptoms of withdrawal, calming tea and numbers and information to aid their smoking cessation -- she also offers students support in "developing a plan that works for them.
"The main reason people aren't successful when they try to quit smoking is they don't have a plan," Kolble said. "Quitting is all about modifying your behavior. For example, if you always have a cigarette after a meal, you could have a mint or brush your teeth instead; we figure out what you can imagine using to help you."
Being healthy With the extra time students have after quitting smoking, many undertake healthier activities than they did before. Becoming active is a great way to "get a lot of support from friends," as well as stave off the weight gain former smokers allegedly experience, Kolble said.
"Very few ex-smokers I've seen have gained weight after quitting," she said. "Because they see me, we talk about the week ahead of them and we form a plan."
Not only is smoking harmful to the body -- causing everything from cancer to emphysema to prolonged illness, as a result of a compromised immune system -- it can be disastrous for students' social life as well. More than 90 percent of students prefer to date nonsmokers.
"A lot of the male students I see want to quit so they can get more dates," Kolble said. "And it's a lot easier, when you quit, to date a non-smoker."
Few smokers Smokers at CU will also likely find themselves in the minority among their peers. According to a 2009 survey by the American College Health Association, more than three-fourths of CU students opt not to smoke, although the data revealed that students perceived this number to be much lower.
Kolble attributes this misconception to a university policy that forbids tobacco use in all of its buildings.
"Very few students are regular smokers," she said. "The number just seems higher because all of the smokers are outside."
Only 5 percent of the students surveyed admitted to daily tobacco use over the course of the month-long study. One-quarter of those surveyed revealed occasional, or social, smoking.
"There is no guarantee that 'social smokers' will stay 'social smokers,'" Kolble said. Factor in the stress of school, or daily life in general, and a student could start using tobacco everyday, she said.
Risk to women Though smoking is a health risk for men and women, Kolble said she sees the highest number of referrals from the Women's Clinic at the Wardenburg Health Center. Women's health issues, such as contraception and pregnancy, can compound the risks of smoking.
"If you are a smoker, cessation is one of the biggest things you can do for your health," said Gloria Brisson, manager of the Women's Clinic. "For women on birth control, there are long-term, compounding risks. When women use tobacco and oral contraceptives, they increase their risk of heart attack and stroke."
Another risk is connected to contraction of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the "most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States," according to the Centers for Disease Control. Smoking "could influence the localized immune response" if a woman contracts HPV, increasing the risk of not clearing the infection, Brisson said.
"Tobacco impacts every cell in the body, including the ones on the cervix," she said.
That pregnant women should refrain from smoking should not be new information, but the consequences of doing so can be severe for mother and child: Tobacco use during pregnancy can lead to everything from low birth-weight to a miscarriage, Brisson said.