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alex and lea smoke cigarettes on the roof smoking ban photo illustration Credit: File Photo , Alex Small

If you find yourself smoking outside of Van Pelt too often, Penn research might help you finally put out the flame.

The new study by professor Caryn Lerman of the Department of Psychiatry and Annenberg Public Policy Center has found that using a particular drug called varenicline is much more effective to help quit smoking than using nicotine patches or just quitting cold turkey.

According to the National College Health Assessment survey cited in a September article in The Daily Pennsylvanian, over 70 percent of Penn students have never used cigarettes, while only 10.6 percent of students said they smoked within the last 30 days. Still, there are students for whom smoking is a part of their daily lives.

Jared, an Engineering sophomore, has struggled while trying to quit cold turkey. He, along with the other Penn smokers interviewed for this article, did not want to want to be identified by his real name.

“Over winter break, I couldn’t smoke because I was home with my parents,” he said. “The first few weeks going cold turkey, I had night sweats, I couldn’t sleep, I had horrible headaches, I had weird stomach pains, I didn’t eat for a couple of days.”

Despite the struggles, Jared hasn’t had a cigarette in two months, the longest time he has gone without a cigarette in the past three years. Still, he is mindful of the difficulty of quitting for good.

“Any smoker never quits just once ... if they’re really addicted they’ll go a specified number of days, maybe a month without smoking, but it’s really hard to stop,” he said.

Several Penn students shared that they were satisfied with being casual smokers, and had no desire to quit at all. Victor, a College sophomore from London finds himself in that group.

“It definitely started as a social thing, but that was before I came to Penn,” he said. “More Europeans smoke than Americans. You never know when it’s okay around Americans to smoke.”

Victor believes that the environment he places himself in encourages his smoking habits, whether he is around his European friends, at frat parties or outside of clubs downtown. When asked if he has any desires to stop smoking, he responded that he could at anytime, because he doesn’t smoke when he goes home on breaks, which makes him feel that he is not addicted and could live without cigarettes.

Though Emily, a College senior, didn’t smoke before coming to Penn, she doesn’t believe that her habit is influenced by those around her. Instead, she believes her smoking is influenced by the time of year, like finals season.

“People are more understanding if you smoke if you’re international,” she said. “I think its hypocritical, because if I decide to smoke, people judge me, yet people aren’t judgmental about the amount their peers drink.”

Finally, Michael, a Wharton sophomore agreed with Emily about the general association between international students and smoking on campus.

“I definitely think its a casual thing because all the international people take study breaks with their friends and smoke,” he said.

Michael, who has smoked since high school, isn’t an international student, but he too takes cigarette breaks when studying and often encourages his friends to do the same. Still, Michael plans to quit smoking in the future.

“I would want to quit for health, monetary and social reasons. I’ve had phases where I quit, because I couldn’t smoke around my parents during breaks, but as far as long term quitting ... I’d like to quit before I graduate.”

The study conducted by Lerman concluded that after 11 weeks of treatment with varenicline, those who metabolize nicotine normally were twice as likely not to be smoking as those using a nicotine patch and face fewer side effects.

“Tobacco dependence is a chronic relapsing condition, and policy measures alone are unlikely to be sufficient to address this public health problem,” she said.

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