Smoking is not on the rise, but tobacco use is still dangerous

Contrary to belief, tobacco is the new gateway drug, according to a University of Arizona prevention specialist.

“Tobacco is the new gateway drug, not marijuana,” said Lynn Reyes, who works for Campus Health at the UA.

According to Reyes, this is a major problem, considering cigarettes are becoming easier and easier to get a hold of.

“If someone wants to smoke, they’re going to get cigarettes,” she said. “They don’t have to sneak into a Circle K.”

Meanwhile at the University of Arizona, smoking is not on the rise. A 2011 survey of all UA students showed that the percentage of students who had smoked at least one cigarette within the previous 30 days rose to 22.1 percent from 21.7 percent in 2010.

According to Reyes, the issue is not the number of smokers, however, but rather the idea that tobacco use leads to the use of other, more dangerous drugs, like marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

Dave Wilen, a sophomore creative writing major, agrees with the assumption that tobacco is the new gateway drug.

“People smoke tobacco because it doesn’t alter your mind, so nobody really looks at it as a drug,” Wilen said. “However, it has a become a new gateway drug because marijuana isn’t everyone’s thing.”

Wilen takes steps to carefully maintain an addiction to cigarettes, like rolling his own cigarettes.

“When you consciously roll them, you pay attention to what you’re consuming,” Wilen said.

According to a 2005 study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than two thirds of cocaine and opiate users smoked between 20 and 40 cigarettes on a daily basis. In the same study, 100 percent of cocaine users and 91.2 percent of opiate users admitted to smoking at least five cigarettes per day.

“I love smoking weed, but I smoke cigarettes to pass the time as a social thing,” said one UA freshman.

“I don’t believe tobacco is a gateway drug, but I do believe that people who smoke cigarettes are more likely to do other things,” added another UA student.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco still remains the single-largest preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States. Coupled with the idea that it leads to use of other drugs, it may be the most dangerous substance in the world today.

Note: This assignment was completed in my Journalism 205: Reporting the News class.