Priority Populations

First Year Students
Away from home and exploring their newfound freedom, first year students may represent the most vulnerable population to start smoking on college. The absence of parental control, combined with a desire to fit in, may turn students who rarely smoked before college into addicted users. Residence hall students in smoking-optional halls are at high risk because they may develop new friendships with smokers and take up the habit themselves. Smoking is also seen as a way to socialize with others who are clustered together outside.

Fraternity and Sorority Members
Fraternity and Sorority members are highly social and may combine smoking with their party behavior. Data from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine revealed that Greek members were more likely than non-Greeks to be frequent cigarette smokers (i.e. 23% vs. 14% smoked at least weekly in that last month).3 We also know that smokeless tobacco companies have targeted fraternities with their promotions.

College Baseball Players and Other Men’s Teams
Athletes, especially baseball players and rodeo club members, may use spit tobacco more frequently than others. On numerous campuses, spit tobacco use is highest in these groups. Male student athletes compared with female student athletes appear to be more likely to use smokeless tobaco.4 A national survey found alarming rates of smokeless (spit or chew) tobacco use among male college athletes. In all, 40.0% of college baseball players and 29.0% of college football players had used spit tobacco in the last year. In comparison, the national smokeless tobacco sue rate for all college men is 17.0% (HEC, 2002).2

Art Students/Theater Students
Smoking is often subconsciously reinforced for art students. While in long studio classes, instructors may dismiss students for regular breaks. When the entire class takes a break, it can turn into one large smoking club. For theater students, what’s more dramatic than a tortured character puffing on a smoke? Whether used as a prop or as a symbol for artistic freedom, theater students often show a much higher rate of tobacco use.

GLBT Students
Among the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) community, there is evidence that suggests tobacco use exceeds that of the general population. The tobacco industry’s relentless campagn to target gay men and women through bar promotions, sponsorships, and advertisements in the queer press, LGBT adults and youth have roughtly 40%-70% higher smoking rates than the general population.Smoking is often a stress management mechanism, particularly for those in the process of coming out.

Women (Especially those in majors where weight is an issue)
Let’s face it — weight tends to be an issue for women. Some women use smoking to control their weight. Not ony do college-aged women smoke as a way to control their weight, but they are also more reluctant to quit because of fear of weight gain (Zucker, 2001).2 Women have been targeted by tobaco industry marketing. Promoting thinness and a slim image is one of the tobacco industry’s main tactics to attract females to smoking (ALA, 2002).2 So for women students in majors where body weight is an issue, such as performance or fashion, smoking may become a common habit.


  1. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR). (2013). LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender. Retrieved June 28, 2013 from the World Wide Web at
  2. College Tobacco Prevention Resource. (2002 Mar). College Tobacco Facts: High-Risk Populations. Retrieved June 28, 2013 from the World Wide Web at
  3. Scott-Sheldon, Lori AJ, Carey, Kate B, Carey, Michael P. Health Behavior and College Students: Does Greek Affiliation Matter?. J Behav Med. 2008 February; 31(1): 61-70.
  4. Yusko, David A, PsyD, Buckman, Jennifer F, PhD, White, Helen R, PhD, and Pandina, Robert J, PhD. Alcohol, tobacco, Illicit Drugs, and Performance Enhancers: A Comparison of Use by College Student Athletes and Nonathletes. J Am Coll Health. 2008 Nov-Dec; 57(3):281-290.