Writer David Carrington explores the relationship between Glasgow University students and their expensive smoking habits.
If you asked someone to stereotype students at Glasgow or similar universities it wouldn’t take long before a certain insufferable accent and the word “baccy” came up. Whether or not you have claimed your Glasgow uni accent or deny it’s existence, the smoking aspect certainly seems true. And, from just walking around campus or looking at the union smoking area you don’t have to go far to see the two go somewhat hand in hand. Speaking to those who fit the stereotype, most had a few ideas why the picture of Glasgow students is what it is, and time and time again the same few explanations appeared.
The first and maybe most obvious answer I found was usually a rather simple version of “why not?”. Binge drinking is advised against and just as synonymous, along with the myriad of alternative nicotine sources like vaping or snus – somewhat less criticised, but undeniably over used. There seem to be plenty of facets of university life which may not be good for us. I don’t think it’s too unreasonable then to simply see one extra addition to this unhealthy list as not that important in the grand scheme of things. I hope, though realise it may be somewhat impossible, that it is not my nicotine cravings speaking here, but it’s true that this justification of the £20 a fortnight habit seemed most popular with those who, like me, have already succumbed to the unwise life choice, but even so I do think it’s a fair point which highlights a slight hypocrisy despite the whataboutism.
Another suggestion that came up was more cynical and focused more on the vanity of smoking and its perceived “coolness” and it’s not hard to see why. Although banned now, cigarette advertising certainly played on masculine and feminine stereotypes to help reinforce this image. With the absence of these adverts, the idea has still lived on, often with musicians or actors embodying this as they are photographed puffing on a cigarette. The reinforcement of cigarettes being sexy, feminine, cool, is apparent in so many elements of modern pop culture and though I doubt you’d find anyone willing to admit this, it’s likely that there is an element of romanticisation that has encouraged many into smoking. It’s hard to tell, but it certainly was a common suggestion, and one that would make sense given the era of popular and social media influence in which we are living.
Peer pressure, I found, was the other common answer and rather unsurprisingly given it’s the one that we are all warned about from an early age. Given how often many describe themselves as social smokers it certainly seems plausible as an explanation for smoking at university. We’ve all found ourselves on a night out where everyone has headed outside, and slowly (or not so slowly) you realise your desire to not be left alone on the dance floor is higher than your willpower to remain a non-smoker. As someone now trying to cut back, this is a familiar story, how I and many of my friends started before it became a fully-fledged habit. Alongside this, the academic pressure and stress of university life certainly don’t help either. Friends I’ve talked to have also said that just the process of taking a break from long days of work or stuffy nightclubs make whatever you’re doing a lot more bearable. Five minutes where there is no expectation to do anything but relax can often be rare at university’s busiest moments.
Smoking seems to pair well with the most common activities in university life so it’s hardly surprising this ongoing association exists, and it’s hard to see how it will come to an end. I doubt the nightlife or stress is going away anytime soon. Most of us have spent our lives bombarded with the negative side effects of this habit and yet here we find ourselves with the 4+ a day habit. With many more looking like they may soon be forced to if disposable vapes are banned; it seems smoking isn’t going anywhere soon, regardless of the fact most of us know it should.