Smoking culture and behaviour amongst students: Smoking amongst students is not a taboo subject anymore. While the cigarette smoking trend has been slowly but steadily decreasing over the past few years (see fig. 1), it is a very well-known fact that smoking is still quite popular among teenagers and young adults. Most of them have started smoking from an early age, causing a lot of damage to their lungs and increasing the risks of developing multiple types of cancer, as well as various heart conditions. Studies by NHS Digital show that, in 2018, 22% of men and 16% of women aged between 16-24 admitted to being regular smokers (see the full report here). It is widely accepted that smoking is extremely harmful to an individual’s health. Another report by NHS Digital shows that in 2017-2018, there was an estimated number of 489,300 hospital admissions with cases of ill health caused by smoking. So if it is so clear that smoking is so dangerous, why are people still doing it? Well, the good news is that recent studies show that consciousness about the risks and damage involved in cigarette smoking is considerably higher in recent years, especially amongst the younger generations (see fig. 2). However, because of a trend called “social smoking”, students find it especially hard to resist the urge. While many students come to university with already a few years of smoking experience under their belts, a very high number of them only start smoking after they get there. This might be either because of social pressure from their peers, or because of the personal will of exploration. However, the problem with social smoking is that once they start, many people find themselves unable to hold back and they end up giving in to the habit of smoking regularly. Vapourlites have carried out a survey of 1,615 Brits ranging from 18-45. In this survey, they wanted to determine which demographic is more exposed to social smoking and for what reasons. An interesting yet somehow expected outcome shows that social smoking was mostly reported by younger people between ages 18-25. When it comes to the reasons behind it, 42% said they enjoyed the effects of nicotine, 31% passed it as an excuse to take a break and go outside and 19% mentioned the main factor is social pressure (source: Vapour.com). A psychologist by the name of Katherine Shipman has researched the subject of social smoking. She claims that social smokers aren’t necessarily getting addicted to the effects of nicotine, but rather by the act of smoking itself. In a similar manner, Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology at UCL said: “One way addiction works is by forming an association between situations where a person would typically smoke. This creates the impulse to smoke when they find themselves in that situation again. A lot of daily smokers report very strong situational cravings”. (source: The Independent UK). This shows again that social smokers get the urge to smoke in specific situations and therefore they don’t crave the chemical aspect of nicotine, but rather the ritual of smoking. These results are very useful and quite positive. It shows that the damage could be greatly minimized if their cigarettes-smoking habit could be replaced with something else. What about vaping? Is it a good alternative? We’re not saying vaping comes risk-free, but Public Health England claims that vaping is 95% healthier than smoking. In a recent report including updated evidence about vaping and e-cigarettes, Public Health England stated that e-cigarettes (vapes) can be highly effective in helping people quit smoking. Especially for those who have tried quitting with no success, vaping can be a good alternative to help reduce the risk of smoking-related diseases. In a recent article, BBC claims that “Smokers can improve the health of their hearts within weeks of switching to e-cigarettes”. Based on a month-long study of 114 vapers, results show that vaping has the potential to reduce heart attack and stroke risks after just one month. “Chemicals in cigarette smoke narrow arteries as they get furred up with fatty deposits increasing the risk of a deadly blockage, thus doubling the risk of a heart attack.” While going back to normal after years of smoking cigarettes is virtually impossible, results showed that by switching to e-cigarettes, the smokers recovered about halfway back to their healthy score. For more information about this study, read the whole article here. How does Vaping work and why is it better than normal cigarettes? Vaping allows you to inhale nicotine in a vapour format, rather than in the tobacco smoke from regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes work by heating up a solution called E-Liquid, which usually contains nicotine (but not always – see here: 0mg nicotine e-liquids), propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerine, and various flavourings. They don’t contain tobacco and they don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide – 2 of the most damaging constituents in tobacco smoke, which you inhale from normal cigarettes. Many people think that nicotine is the substance that is most harmful to our health. In fact, although it is addictive, nicotine is relatively harmless: it’s the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke that cause almost all the harm from smoking. (source: NHS.uk) Now as we mentioned previously, we’re not implying that vaping is completely risk-free, but experts agree that it’s a much better option than regular smoking and one of the best ways to help you quit smoking. Additional advice to help students quit smoking: 1. Be dedicated and think positive. You might have tried quitting before and it didn’t work, whether it’s because of peer pressure or any other factors. The truth is, you need to be dedicated to your choice. Think about the importance of your long-term health and find the strength within you to make smarter choices. 2. Eliminate triggers. As soon as you decide to quit smoking or switch to vaping, clean your surroundings of all things tobacco-related, such as ashtrays, lighters, leftover cigarettes. Understand the importance of avoiding triggers, whatever shape or form they may come in. 3. Don’t be easily influenced. Maybe your friends are regular smokers and you want to fit in? We’re not saying to ditch your friends (unless you feel it’s the right thing to do), but instead, explain to them that you have taken a decision for your own good and ask for their support in helping you towards that. If you have the right friends, they will totally understand. If they don’t…well maybe our previous advice was accurate. 4. Be mindful and observe the situation. If you’re on a night out and your group is going out for a smoke, you can either join them or not. But if you do join them, just remember you’re there to be with your friends and take a breath of fresh air (away from all the smoke). If you vape, you can just use your vaping device instead, but be mindful and don’t give in to the urge of smoking a cigarette just because everyone else is. 5. Change your routine. If you’ve been smoking for a long time, you might notice certain situations where you have developed a habit of smoking. For example, you might’ve used to take short study breaks to go for a cigarette, or you may be used to drinking your morning coffee while having a smoke. Those are not just really unhealthy habits, but also very hard to quit. It’s very important to replace those habits with something else, maybe something more productive. You could use your study break to call a friend or check up on your family, or you might drink your coffee while checking your messages, reading the latest news or watching a motivational youtube video to get your day started with the right mindset 6. Develop new habits. It can be quite hard to give up entirely on old habits, but developing new ones can definitely help. Switching to vaping might help to quit smoking, but what else can you do? Now that you’re quitting smoking and aiming for a more healthy lifestyle, you can definitely start to implement more physical activity in your daily life. Try out a new sport, join your local gym or sign up to a society dedicated to healthy activities, you will definitely find something in your university! What can universities do to combat smoking? While according to the law, every university in the UK has banned smoking inside their buildings and closed areas, some universities have taken extra steps to support students to quit smoking. For example, the University of Leeds has introduced a smoke-free campus rule since August 2019. With this action, students, members of staff and all visitors were asked not to smoke between 8am – 6pm. This includes all outdoor spaces on the main campus, as well as all University-owned accommodations and sports fields. As before, people were not allowed to smoke or vape inside the buildings or near the entrances. However, vaping will be allowed in all outside spaces, as Public Health England sees vaping as an aid to help people quit smoking. Their commitment to the health and wellbeing of their students, staff and visitors is clearly noticed and appreciated. Since then, other universities such as King’s College, Imperial College London, Northumbria University and many others have adopted new systems to help people stop smoking. Should your university be doing this too? All these actions are well-intended to benefit and improve long-term health and that’s why here at Vape.co.uk, we strongly believe that all other universities should follow this incentive and implement a plan to help students quit smoking. It is important for students to understand how dangerous smoking is and the damage it can do to their health. Therefore, it’s important for universities to provide information and educate both their students and staff on this matter through various channels such as social media, print posters or even dedicated events. Get in touch with your university and see how they can help you quit smoking. Some of them offer various support sessions, tips and materials for helping you on your smoke-free journey. Remember, if you have any questions or need help with anything vape related, click the button in the bottom right-hand corner to chat with one of our UK-based vape experts and get real-time advice by speaking to an actual human.