Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Is Tobacco Use a Problem among Deaf College Students?

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Is Tobacco Use a Problem among Deaf College Students?

Article excerpt

COLLEGE STUDENTS' tobacco use poses a significant public health problem. Effective intervention requires understanding of this behavior among race/ethnic, cultural, and linguistic collegiate subgroups, including deaf and hard of hearing collegians. Findings from a first-ever tobacco-related survey among this understudied population are reported. The authors used written questionnaires and the Interactive Video Questionnaire(TM), a multimedia computer technology developed for use with the deaf and hard of hearing, to interview 241 volunteers on seven California college campuses. They found lower self-reported current smoking prevalence (14.5%) relative to collegians in the general population, but considerable ever smoking (65.1%) and multiple types of tobacco use (37.3%). The authors report on factors associated with tobacco use and on students' exposure to cigarette marketing, gaps experienced in receipt of antitobacco messages and services, and students' antitobacco intervention recommendations. Limitations of the research are described, including possible underreporting of participants' tobacco use.

Cigarette smoking among college students is a public health concern. There was a significant increase in tobacco use in the 1990s (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2004; Wechsler, Rigotti, Gledhill-Hoyt, & Lee, 1998); a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 1997) indicated that three quarters of those enrolled in the nation's colleges and universities had tried cigarette smoking. Estimates of annual prevalence ranged from 40% to 45%, and 30-day prevalence from 27% to 35% (CDC, 1997; Presley, Meilman, & Cashin, 1996; Wechsler et al., 1998). These rates have remained almost constant into the current decade (CORE Institute, 2005; Johnston et al., 2004; Lantz, 2003; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004). Smoking rates among college freshmen have declined in recent years; for instance, 12.7% of freshmen were reported to smoke cigarettes frequently in 1998, but only 6.3% in 2003 (Sax et al., 2003). However, a considerable shift from occasional to regular smoking is occurring during the college years (Everett et al., 1999; Saules et al., 2004; Wechsler et al., 1998; Wetter et al., 2004).

Although these trends offer a strong case for intervention and there is evidence of student support for proposed tobacco control policies (Rigotti, Regan, Moran, & Wechsler, 2003), smoking bans are far from universal. Many campuses lack programs to serve students who want to stop smoking, and available programs are not being fully utilized (Wechsler, Kelley, Seibring, Kuo, & Rigotti, 2001). Effective prevention and cessation programs are needed that reach young adults, including college students (Lantz, 2003; Ramsey & Huffman, 2004; Wechsler et al., 2001; Wetter et al., 2004). If effective antitobacco interventions are to be developed, the specific needs of subgroups identified on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, or other characteristics must be ascertained. This is especially true when it comes to culturally and linguistically distinct student populations, such as the nation's deaf and hard of hearing collegiate population (Joseph, 1993), a subset of more than 23,000 college students who describe themselves as having hearing losses (Richardson, Long, & Woodley, 2004), and that includes those who identify themselves as part of a deaf and hard of hearing community, embrace Deaf culture, and regard American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language (Lane, Hoffmeister, & Bahan, 1996).

Limitations in health-related knowledge, social marginality, and the socioeconomic characteristics of many deaf and hard of hearing youth and young adults have been identified as placing this population at risk for unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol and illegal substance use and unsafe sexual practices (see, e.g., Joseph, Sawyer, & Desmond, 1995; Luckner & Gonzales, 1993; Peinkofer, 1994; Rendon, 1992; Van Biema, 1994). …

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