Research indicates focus on smoking habits can lead to prevention of drinking

Christina Breitbeil

UT student smokers are significantly inclined to display a disposition toward drinking alcohol, but the reverse is not the case with student drinkers, according to new research by UT assistant professor Jessica Cance. 

The research explores socio-demographic factors — such as gender, race, residence and affiliation with Greek life on campus — that contribute to the coinciding occurrence of smoking and alcohol use among young adults;  specifically, those students who participated in the study. The largest percentage of participants in the study, 42 percent, belonged to the group of non-smoking and low alcohol users. The lowest, less than one percent, belonged to the group of non-alcohol-using heavy smokers. 

According to the research, white race and affiliation with the Greek community were associated with an increased likelihood of both tobacco and alcohol consumption, but the socio-demographic factors of male gender, family income and level of parental education only affect student consumption of alcohol, not tobacco. 

Cance’s team concluded from the research of students’ simultaneous usage of alcohol and tobacco that there was more variability among student drinkers than student smokers; smokers consistently demonstrated additional drinking habits, while drinkers did not show evidence of correlated smoking habits.         

“The lack of variability among smokers means that if we want to prevent the co-occurrence of smoking and drinking among young adults, we need to look at the smokers in our future efforts to solve the issue,” Cance said.

The City of Austin’s ban on public smoking in 2005 directly affected the study, which was conducted from 2002 until 2010. Although UT campus did not have a ban on smoking at the time, the research demonstrated that the city ordinance caused students to be significantly less likely to smoke.   

Haley Onofrey, nutrition and pre-med freshman, said that although UT’s newly implemented policy to enforce a tobacco-free regiment on campus is a positive change, there are more opportunities for the prevention of smoking among students on campus.      

“I agree with the smoke-free policy, and I’m glad that UT is working to reduce the occurrence of smoking, but I still see it every day on campus,” Onofrey said. “The issue is by no means resolved yet.”

The new policy will contribute to increased reduction in the presence of smoking among students, according to the study, which concluded that limiting the public places where people can smoke decreases likelihoodof smoking.

Walker Wiese, Plan II junior, said he does not agree with the backlash against smokers on campus.

“The social stigma against smoking is one of the most negative social interpretations one can have,” Wiese said. “The recent bans on smoking have caused people who smoke to be judged as worse people for what they do, but it doesn’t change who you are as a person.”

Cance, though, said it is the job of campus officials to work toward the reduction of smoking at UT.

“While we know the risks of tobacco use, it’s important to note that college students are still smoking, and our job isn’t done yet,” Cance said.

Cance will present the research, also conducted by educational psychology graduate student Anna Talley and psychology professor Kim Fromme, at a brown bag lunch at the College of Liberal Arts on Friday.