at HPU: Too much of a bad thing
Survey and story by spring 2002 Communications
3400 class, Professional Writing
Hawaii Pacific University students smoke far too much,
would like to quit, but arent too sure how about it.
At least thats what a questionnaire developed and administered
by a Communications 3400 class (Professional Writing) at the
end of the spring term suggests.
Click on image for
The questionnaire was part of an ambitious tobacco control
project initiated by the class and Adjunct Professor John
Hunter, also the Program Director of the American Lung Association
of Hawaii. Some of the products of the Communications
project, ads against tobacco and smoking that also advertise
a free quit-smoking program of the ALA, are shown at right.
We have plenty of anecdotal evidence, Hunter comments,
just the experience of being here every day, that tells
us HPU is a real smokestack. We wanted something more solid
to take to the HPU administration, to help them get a strong
anti-tobacco program going. Now I think we have it.
What did the questionnaire reveal?
The two-page questionnaire, partly based on a similar one
from the rigorous University of Hawaiis all-campuses
tobacco control policy now seeking approval, was used at the
spring HPU/Kaiser Health Fair. Two hundred and ten participants
filled out the questionnaire, responding to incentives like
free Blow Pops and the chance to win larger prizes (thermal
bags and backpacks furnished by and with logos of the Lung
Association). Almost all the participants were HPU students;
14 were passersby and three were HPU staffers.
The demographics were interesting in themselves, revealing
the great international mix of HPU, with students from the
U.S., Philippines, Sweden, Jordan, Republic of the Marshall
Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Argentina, Africa,
Holland, and Japan. Sixty-two percent of the respondents were
females, 38 percent male. The largest age group was 16-20
years (42 percent), followed by 26-35 years (26 percent),
perhaps a reflection of two groups, the younger U.S. students
and the somewhat older group of international students. Fifty-nine
percent of all respondents said members of their family smoked.
But 85 percent of the respondents said their close friends
were smoking, which begins to suggest the HPU problem: where
the percentage of smokers in all Hawaiis diverse
population hovers at slightly less than 20 percent and the
smokers of high school age number 23.5 percent, as many as
29 percent, almost one in three, at HPU are apparent smokers.
Not an encouraging figure for a university population, in
a time when smoking has been revealed as indubitably death-dealing,
cynically manipulated by Big Tobacco with youth-and-glamour
ads, and costing as much as $150,000,000/year in direct health
costs and lost productivity (U.S. Centers for Disease Control
figures, April 11, 2002).
|Smoking is like Russian roulette with all cylinders
Courtesy American Lung Association
High percentages are smoking at HPU, yet respondents evidently
know at least something of the dangers of tobacco. Forty-three
percent knew or guessed correctly that todays cigarettes
contain 45 Class A carcinogens (agents known to cause cancer
in humans); another 20 percent guessed 30. Ninety percent recognized
that todays tobacco products contain nicotine, used in
tobacco and pesticides; and another 71 percent knew they contain
ammonia, the corrosive floor cleaner also used to spike
tobacco and intensify the impact of the nicotine. Fewer knew
about the formaldehyde and arsenic, and only circa 60 percent
knew or guessed that tobacco products contain cadmium (used
mainly in car batteries) and acetone (nail polish remover).
Yet 29 percent were willing to believe that 1,000,000 U.S.
deaths were directly attributable to tobacco each year; 37 percent
believed the more accurate figure of 500,000. The balance of
the respondents guessed far lower figures (the actual CDC figure
from the April 11 news release quoted above, is 442,000+ deaths
per year from diseases like lung cancer and emphysema, 90 percent
of which is caused by smoking).
What should HPU do?
A cancer-ridden smokers lung.
Obviously, knowing about the dangers of tobacco use is not
enough to get people to quit. Thats attempting to
apply rational solutions to a very nonrational business, often
a deep addiction thats even deeper with hard-core smokers
who start at younger than sixteen, Hunter comments. Tobacco
addiction is one of the fiercest and hardest to break that we
know, harder even than heroin or cocaine. In addition to that,
college-age people are simply notorious for their inability
to imagine their own death. In their hearts most college students
believe they are indestructible.
So what should HPU do about tobacco, if anything? The questionnaire
results suggest a more rigorous approach to the problem might
be called for. More than half of those surveyed felt smoking
at the University was nearly as serious a concern as any other
form of drug use, including alcohol. Nearly three-quarters (72.4
percent) rated secondhand smoke in the HPU world as the gravest
threat of all; 52 percent reported it bothers them a great
deal, another 30 percent that it bothers than somewhat.
Forty-one percent said they were troubled by secondhand smoke
five days a week; only 16 percent reported that they were not
troubled by someone elses smoke. Fifty-one percent felt
that secondhand smoke was always a health danger,
period; another 27 percent felt it was a significant threat
unless more than fifty feet away.
They are right too. Secondhand smoke has been proven
very dangerous to nonsmokers. And not just the stuff exhaled
by smokers the drifting smoke from the front end of cigarettes
and even more nicotine-laced cigars are more a threat than the
exhalations, Hunter comments. Thats why advocacy
groups like American Lung were successful in their campaign
to end smoking in all Oahu restaurants [effective July
1 2002]: its not to protect smokers from themselves, but
to protect workers and non-smoking patrons from those who continue
to puff away.
The new Oahu smoking prohibition may solve much of the
problem for HPU. One area the survey recognized as the most
problematic is outdoor dining areas (the other was,
more generally, Fort Street Mall). Since the outer
dining areas of most Mall restaurants are not separated by the
required distance from inner areas, the restaurants will be
required by the new law to go all non-smoking.
Most of the respondents liked that idea and other protections
against tobacco. More than 75 percent agree that smoking should
be prohibited in or around HPU building entrances
(it is: theres a 10-foot rule), in restaurants around
HPU, and at HPU athletic/cultural events.
The same high numbers agree that HPU should not permit distribution
of tobacco promotional items or allow tobacco industry
sponsorship of athletic functions or of any HPU functions.
The one problem area: the Fort Street Mall. Probably recognizing
that the Mall is not really HPU property and therefore not subject
to HPU controls, 63 percent said smoking should be permitted
What to do about the Mall, in a sense very much a part of the
downtown campus, is a big question. One of the students
administering the survey pointed to the steps of the Our Lady
of Peace church, where a number of HPU students sat lounging
and smoking. Weve got to walk through that cloud,
but you know its really the churchs responsibility
to do something, Brian Caleda commented. Its
the same with most of the buildings HPU uses and the Mall. HPU
doesnt own them and cant control them.
Perhaps HPU can offer some help, however, to the 44 percent
of the smoking respondents committing slow but certain suicide
(that is, smoking more than six cigarettes a day). Of the smokers
(approximately 30 percent of all survey respondents), 97 percent
said they would consider using an HPU/Kaiser smoking cessation
program, if one were offered. Seventy-seven percent had already
tried to quit, more than half of them four or more times. There
was no clear consensus on the best way to quit, although the
two listed as probably the most effective cessation methods
really underline the power of the nicotine addiction: cold
turkey was very slightly preferred to nicotine replacement
Want to quit yourself? Call the Kaiser/HPU Health Service or
try 537-5966, the American Lung Association, which has several
programs that can help, including one online (www.ffsonline.org).
Do you think HPU should do more to help the tobacco addicts
and clean up the HPU air we share? Let offices such as Student
Life know about it!