For some first year students at The New School, smoking cigarettes is a social tool. But will the “friends” made while puffing away, stick around for as long as the effects from smoking will? For many students, that relationship has yet to cross their mind.
“I feel like a lot of people here feel like they’ve seen it all and done a lot. There’s an assumption that you’ve seen something,” said Maya, a freshman at Eugene Lang College.
I met Maya in the courtyard. She wore dark sunglasses and smoked a cigarette as she talked among friends. Though Maya has smoked since high school, she says her smoking has increased since coming to Lang from Seattle because her friends at the university smoke. “Pretty much everyone at Lang smokes,” she said. “I come out here (the courtyard) to smoke with friends.”
Like Maya, Lang freshman, Alex and Maizy were also smoking outside. The pair met because they both live in the Stuyvesant Park Residence, the new freshman dormitory on 15th street. At Stuyvesant, the pair agreed that smoking is a social mechanism for meeting other students. “We met because we were smoking and everyone goes outside to smoke,” said Alex. “Outside of our dorm is the place to be.”
Maizy is from Los Angeles and has smoked since high school. She has found making friends to be a challenge because she says freshman are so eager to meet new people that it’s difficult to make sincere connections. Because of the desire to feel included, student who aren’t smokers have begun smoking. “People feel like they have to be out there,” said Maizy. “But than I watch them suffer as they don’t enjoy themselves.”
However, Justine, a Lang sophomore, who has lived in the dorms at Loeb Hall since freshman year, says she doesn’t smoke because she thinks its “gross.” and that she wouldn’t compromise her health to fit into certain social circles. “I’ve never had a cigarette in my life, she said. “I think it’s a social tool.”
Lucky for Justine, students can’t smoke inside the dorms as New School regulations prohibit smoking cigarettes and cigars in all university buildings. But the university’s Code of Conduct says “rooms/suites are designated as non-smoking unless all of the occupants agree to allow smoking. In accordance with both The New School and New York State law, smoking is prohibited in any hallways, stairwells, or other common area space.”
Maizy said she planned to quit smoking when she moved to New York, but has yet to do so because of its social prevalence among the student body. “I was going to quit when I got to college,” said Maizy. “But than I got here and it was woah, explosion of smokers.”