College means freedom: the freedom to stay out as late as you like, the freedom to choose your own classes, the freedom to surround yourself with an entirely new group of people. You’re forced out of your little hometown bubble and into a new experience.
My life was turned upside-down when I left my close-knit suburban community and headed to a big-city school. City life was completely foreign to me. The constant bustle was overwhelming at times. But what really blew my mind were the differences between college and my high school. The big shocker? The number of students smoking. Kids constantly sat outside of my dorm and smoked cigarettes with their friends. There was always a line at the drugstore to buy cigarettes. Frat houses were filled with smoke. After a while, it was no longer a big deal to see someone having a cigarette on the way to an 8 a.m. class. In fact, my best friends at college smoke…a lot.
Only a year earlier, it was rare to see my high school classmates smoking. In fact, none of my high school friends smoke. I thought it was weird that so many of my college peers smoked. Then, after my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer, I began to ask them why they smoked. They said it wasn’t a big deal and that they could quit after college. They said smoking a cigarette relieved the stress of exams and term papers. Though I didn’t understand their choice of a stress reliever, I could sympathize with them. College life is a blast, but it comes with a lot of stress and responsibilities. Your mom isn’t there. Homework is challenging and sometimes seems never-ending. Money is tight.
But there are a million other things to do to relieve stress besides smoking. Exercise, for one. Just 30 minutes of exercise releases endorphins into the brain that naturally relieve stress. It also releases serotonin, a natural mood enhancer. Smoking a cigarette, on the other hand, releases the same toxins that are found in rat poison, gasoline and embalming fluid. As mood enhancers go, those seem pretty unnatural.
Another healthy stress reliever? Music. As you’re scrambling to finish a paper, listening to music can help decrease your stress level. And you don’t have to stop working. To smoke a cigarette, you have to go outside. It eats up minutes that could be put toward throwing a load of dirty clothes in the washer, solving a tricky calculus problem or shooting hoops with your friends.
College has another stressful reality: it’s outrageously expensive. Figuring out how to pay for books can make anyone go crazy. It seems you’re always getting a bill for something: tuition, meal plans, housing. So why waste good money on smoking? A cigarette knocks more than seven minutes off the end of your life, but right now it’s killing your wallet. A pack a day can cost more than $2,000 per year.
College is a life-changing experience. It can be the greatest time of your life. But it can also be extremely hectic. When papers, readings and projects pile up, choose a healthy way to relieve your stress. While smoking may provide short-term stress relief, it can lead to long-term addiction. Figure out what works best for you — beat stress and enjoy college!
— Lauren from Wilmington