By Mena Abedi

Following in the footsteps of several other countries, France has implemented a ban on smoking cigarettes in public places. Often seen as an icon of French culture in accordance with the fine arts, intellectualism, and glamorous lifestyles, the shattered stereotype has been lighting up discussion at UC Santa Cruz.

The ban gave Jane Bogart, coordinator of UCSC’s Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP), reason to list a few of the negative effects of the addictive habit—which she said was a detriment to health, social image, brain activity, and sex life (the decreased blood flow causes impotence in men).

Bogart, who worked with the “Quit and Win” program at NYU, was told by many art students that cigarette smoking made them feel creative.

Because smoking is often glorified among some of the world’s artistic greats, she challenged them to find creative people who don’t smoke cigarettes.

Dick Terdiman, professor of French literature at UCSC, recognized that many French and American artists and entertainment figures glamorize smoking.

“Surely the images of famous French cultural figures with a cigarette dangling from their mouth—Sartre, Malraux, Camus—dominated a certain period of the 1950s and ‘60s,” Terdiman said. “Of course the image of Humphrey Bogart puffing away in many films—and later dying of lung cancer—tells us that the phenomenon was not limited to France.” 

On the other hand, some art students, including one wishing to be identified only as Jared, credit the flow of their creative juices to smoking marijuana rather than cigarettes, noting that the social aspect of smoking cigarettes can only take one so far in their art.

Yet for some, smoking comes when inhibitions are lowered from alcohol or other social pressures to look “cool.”

“It is about having something in your hand, being busy, and looking intellectual and edgy,” said Lindsay Winslow, a fourth-year art student at UCSC.

“When you have a cigarette break, you can go out and talk about art or whatever with whomever you are smoking with,” said Daniel Lu, a third-year art student. “You get to meet new people. You can go up to anyone who is smoking and ask for a cigarette. It’s like an ice breaker.”

But from a professional perspective, Jane Bogart sees the trends turning. 

“Smoking has long been used as a social or bonding activity, and also as an appetite suppressant,” Bogart said. “There is also the ‘cool factor’, but that is changing. Lately, we have been making [smoking] more socially unacceptable, empowering those that don’t like it to speak up and say, ‘don’t do it in my face.”

Some students notice the heavy influence of smoking in the media. Clayton Kober, a fourth-year art student at UCSC who is against smoking, blames the appeal of cigarettes on James Dean. Tamara Dib, a second-year art student, noticed the appeal of smoking in books like On the Road and songs like Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.”

Julian Lloyd, a third-year student who is studying both art and film and digital media, thinks that smoking lends itself to a jaded attitude toward life that is part of a very cliché art culture.

Regardless of the potential influence from the media and social pressures, most students emphasized that their smoking habits are under control.

“I may stop when I make a move to a more professional and ‘together’ place in my life, just for the sake of it,” Lloyd said.

Bogart mentioned, however, that many college students don’t realize that they are addicted to smoking. She often hears students assure her that they only smoke cigarettes after they have been drinking and intend to quit after they graduate.

For some students though, there is a deeper question at hand that asks if a ban on smoking should be such a priority.

Benjamin Raymond, a Sartre-esque 20-year-old student who has been smoking for three years, feels that smoking is a personal choice and should not be denied in our supposedly free society.

 “If we confront social inequity as largely as we have battled smoking, that people wouldn’t be able to lie, cheat, steal, or blasphemize…within twenty yards of most congregations,” Raymond said. “Smoking is masochistic at its worst. We should solve the sadism of our societies before we worry about what we choose to do to ourselves.”