The research was conducted at Trinity College Dublin as part of proposals to establish a smoke-free campus.
A previous online survey showed that 50% of undergraduates, 58% of postgraduates and 66% of staff were in favour of the Trinity campus becoming smoke-free.
The authors of this study, led by Dr Gabrielle McKee of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Institute of Population Health in TCD, said its background “was a proposal to introduce a tobacco-free campus in a university in the Republic of Ireland” and that students might be receptive to health promotion initiatives.
Some 739 respondents engaged with the study, the majority of whom were biochemistry students (55%), first year students (70%), and aged less than 22 (84%).
Most were non-smokers (81%). The proportion of students who were smokers was 19%, including 12% who were occasional smokers.
According to the findings: “Smoking was significantly more common among nursing and psychology students, in those aged 22 years or more, and in those living in their own home.”
It also said that occasional rather than daily smoking was more prevalent in university students.
“A substantial proportion of both occasional (42%) and daily smokers (48%) had attempted unsuccessfully to quit in the last year and a high percentage of both occasional (36%) and daily (48%) smokers reported their most recent quit attempt being made without assistance.”
Researchers also found that daily smokers were more likely to be older than occasional smokers and of the opinion that giving up smoking would make it harder to handle stress in their lives.
As for the 19% of respondents who said they did smoke, the report’s authors state that “although this is a sizable minority, it indicates that it is no longer the norm to smoke.
“Interestingly a large percentage of both non-smokers (60%) and smokers (44%) reported being affected by secondhand smoke outside the campus buildings.
“These factors may contribute to the denormalisation of smoking as a behaviour on campus.”
People who identified themselves as smokers were less likely to agree that tobacco was addictive and to consider those who smoked at parties and weekends to be regular smokers.
Daily smokers were older and nine times more likely to report increased difficulty in handling stress if they quit smoking.
There was also a keen desire among many to give up the habit: 44% of all smokers had attempted to quit in the past year, 35% of smokers intended to quit in the next 30 days and 53% in the next six months, although 40% did not use quitting supports.
The report suggests the targeting of prevention strategies, such as during induction for new students, and timing smoking cessation media strategies so as not to coincide with exam periods, may make them more likely to succeed.
The study, entitled Predictors of Daily and Occasional Smoking and Quitting in Irish University Students’, can be read via www.tara.tcd.ie