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.
To Angelo and the University of Dallas,
With all the research that has proven negative effects on the health of smokers (routine and occasional), I am saddened to hear that the UD proudly boasts of its smoking policy. One would assume that a college with motto “The Catholic University for Independent Thinkers” would go against the old sterotypes and cultural norms of smoking. Especially since the University of Dallas proclaims that they are “dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, of truth, and of virtue.” How wise is it to invest the minds of students and simultaneously encourage the dilapidation of the brain, as well as the rest of the body?
While I do appreciate the notion of choosing to abstain with your own free will, I believe it is unfair to subjected students to the damaging effects of second-hand smoke. Not only is second-hand smoke an issue, so becomes peer pressure and the desire to fit in. When smoking is treated as something causal and even glorified, the amount of participants with increase!
The case of banning smoking on campus is one cultural norm that should receive support. As a fellow catholic, I believe that God has intrusted to us all an amount of talents (Matthew 25:14-30) or potential; that said, I believe that the health of our body is an important talent. This talent that can squandered, ignored, maintained, or invested in. Health is the talent that all of the other talents rely on. As phrase goes, “Without your health, you have nothing.” I say this while still acknowledging that health issues can be used to further the proclaim the kingdom of God (John 9:3b) and do not always cause an early death. Shouldn’t we make sure we keep ourselves in the best shape we can spiritually and physically (see CCC 2288) so that we can serve God the best and the greatest amount of time here on earth? I believe God can do all thing, but I also believe that there are consequences for our actions. I also would like to mention that while CCC 2290 says that tobacco use is allowable when done in moderation, it has been proven to have effects at every level and should be treated like the vernacular drugs (cocaine, marijuana, heroin, meth, ect.). It also should be noted that while the Church is infallible in doctrine and G.K. Chesterton is a wonderful philosopher and Catholic, both these did not have the amount of research we have today that proves how damaging smoking is to the mind and body.
Smoking should NOT be romanticized or encouraged with news articles, social gatherings, and lackadaisical policies. Students should have plenty of other things to bond over and spend their time doing.
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