Senior Paul Zepeda says, “Cigarettes are a catalyst.”
“When you’re hanging around in basketball shorts and a t-shirt, they make you look even more trashy,” Zepeda added. “But, when you’re dressed nicely, they just look classic.”
Indeed, looking at photos of University of Dallas professors from back in the day dressed in their slacks and sports coats with a cigarette in hand, they appear to have had a very classic and cool aura about them.
These days, however, most college campuses are “smoke-free.”
“I don’t like smoking off campus,” said junior Mackenzie Fuller. “I definitely feel like I will be shunned for smoking other places.”
Smoking is no longer a social norm on most college campuses. However, it is still a normal part of everyday life at UD. So, what is different about our university that motivates students to break the norm?
To find an answer to this question, I asked a variety of students how they started smoking and why.
Senior Annie Jenkins said she started smoking when she came to UD.
“I turned down cigarettes for months thinking I wouldn’t smoke, but then after a while, I got accustomed to it,” Jenkins said.
Junior JP DiLucca said he started smoking in Rome, and I asked him why.
“Have you ever seen James Bond?” DiLucca joked.
DiLucca’s answer highlights two aspects of the UD culture that have contributed to students smoking. First, smoking is very popular in Europe, and many UD students pick up the habit of smoking during their time in Italy and bring it back to the Irving campus. Second, smoking harkens back to a time that many UD students romanticize, myself included, and which provides a kind of intellectual swagger.
“In Idaho, I only saw white trash people smoking, and I thought I would never do it, but when I saw young intellectuals smoking, it became much more attractive,” DiLucca said.
I also asked non-smokers what they thought of the smoking culture on campus.
Senior Clare Basil said that though she does not smoke, she believes that smoking serves a social purpose at UD.
However, senior Simone Loel had different view on the matter.
“When smoking becomes an addiction, it is really sad,” Loel said. “People end up sitting outside by themselves, and it actually destroys community because they have to leave to satisfy their craving.”
“[But in a social context, smoking] forces you to linger,” Basil said.
Freshman Patrick Alvis agreed with Basil’s sentiment.
“One cigarette is the perfect amount of time for a quick chat,” Alvis said.
Moreover, Alvis brought up an additional perspective on smoking.
“If you are on the porch at Old Mill having some profound philosophical conversation, smoking is almost a part of the conversation,” Alvis stated.
“If I’m smoking a cigarette with someone at UD, I know I am having a good conversation,” said senior Conor Corkery.
“Smoking is a basis of our culture because it provides a leisurely activity which creates a relaxed atmosphere that in turn encourages philosophizing,” said senior Monica Ryland.
This culture of leisure manifests itself in a weekly gathering on the balcony of one of the freshman guys’ dorms. This year it has been dubbed “Theresa Tuesday.”
“[‘Theresa Tuesday’ is] a group of people, smokers and non-smokers, hanging out, having good conversation and enjoying good music,” said junior Patrick Gomez.
“It started organically and is not exclusively cigarettes,” Gomez added. “People bring pipes and cigars and everyone is welcome. It has really built a sense of community. Last week we had 42 people come out.”
Finally, smoking is socially acceptable at UD because, when in moderation, it is not a sin in the Catholic Church.
“In Catholicism, the pint, the pipe, and the cross can all fit together,” said Gomez, quoting Catholic philosopher G. K. Chesterton.
After talking to a diverse pool of UD students, I concluded that many students view smoking as a medium that creates a positive social climate. These students believe that smoking lends itself to contemplation and good conversation, and that these social benefits temper the obvious health implications of smoking.
Some may say that you don’t need to smoke to have a good chat. Perhaps this is true, but the old-fashioned swagger that accompanies the drag of a cigarette and the pleasure of likening one’s self to Chesterton, Lewis, or Tolkien by puffing an old pipe seems to have long ago won over UD students.