Smoking coalition has it all wrong

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The University is teaming up with the City of Portland to find the silver bullet to end college smoking once and for all. Actually, the coalition is focused on youth, but USM is one of the main targets.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am a smoker (much to my parents dismay).

That said, the task force recently created “Collaborative Community and School Health Promotion Programs for the Reduction of Tobacco Use and Tobacco-Related Disease” is aimed at persuading people like me to quit smoking and to create a “smoke-free” campus.

Interesting idea. But is this a realistic goal, or the University jumping on the anti-smoking bandwagon?

My vote is for the wagon, and here’s why:

Current anti-smoking campaigns are pathetically ineffective.

This year the aim on television ads has been to squash the smoking habit by educating people on how unhealthy it is. Now, maybe it’s just me, but the fact that smoking is unhealthy does not come as a surprise to me. I find it hard to feel sympathy for people who die from lung cancer when they smoked two packs a day for 30 years. We, as smokers, know the risks. We are responsible for ourselves and the illnesses which follow. I’m not going to sue the tobacco company for my nasty habit, I choose to do it. So save the speeches, and try something more effective.

I may be giving away smokers secrets here, but the real way to discourage kids from smoking is to be a lot more direct.

Smoking makes you stink, no one will want to kiss you, and you will never get laid if you smoke.

Kids entering the world of teenage romance have few goals: to make-out and be liked. Make-out interference is much more compelling than guilt. Tell kids the truth, that even if they brush their teeth their hair and clothes will still smell like smoke. Tell them their teeth will turn yellow. Tell them their bodies might even begin to smell like a cigarette when they aren’t smoking. This is the stuff which really frightens them.

I am relatively new to the smoking world, my introduction coinciding with my job as executive editor (hmm.). When people ask me why I do it, I chose the generic ” I don’t know,” which usually elicits the “it will kill you” speech.

Now, if someone were to get up and move away from me because I smelled bad, it would be much more effective than telling me I am going to die of cancer.

The truth is, when I was a non-smoker, I was intimidated by smokers. I never complained about the smell or cloud of smoke I was forced to walk through to get into Luther Bonney. It is impossible to say something to a smoker without sounding like a complete stiff.

There are two approaches to illustrate your feelings about smokers, one is to complain about its effect on you.

“Um. excuse me? Smokers? Can you not exhale on me? Thanks.”

Wrong. No one cares, we are selfish people. We don’t even care if smoking kills us, why would we care how it effects you?

But if you were to say in a group of people, “What stinks like cigarette? Gross!” it would have a more lasting effect.

People will not quit smoking for other people’s benefit. Guilt does not work, fear of disease won’t work. People will quit for reasons of vanity. They smell, they are unattractive, they won’t get a date. Immediate ramifications of smoking are more compelling to young people than those 30 years down the road.

Try these tactics, and I’ll think about putting out my cigarette.

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