S is for Smoker: Nicotine addict won’t kick costly habit

Scottsville senior Jack Rolett lights up a cigarette outside of his apartment. Rolett has been a smoker for five years. “You won’t quit until you really want to quit, and right now all of the risks of smoking are outweighed by my desire to smoke,” Rolett said.

Spencer Jenkins

Bowling Green senior Jack Rolett sometimes walks to class because buying American Spirit cigarettes outweighs his need for gasoline.

“I haven’t cut back because of price, so the drain on my account has gotten progressively worse,” Rolett said. “Living paycheck to paycheck is already cutting it close.”

Rolett spends about $120 on cigarettes in one month, he said.

“That adds up, but the thing is you do it in such small increments, and being addicted to a substance, you don’t even think about those increments adding up,” he said. “Because you think, ‘I need these cigarettes.'”

Rolett, 24, started smoking his freshman year of college at Eastern Kentucky University. He was 18.

“It was sort of peer pressure in a way,” he said. “I remember going through a rough part of a relationship with someone else, and the people I was around in college at EKU smoked, and I started smoking out of stress.”

For Rolett, the addiction started with “one here and there” when stressed, “one here and there” while drinking or socializing, and then it was one every day. Now, it’s a pack or more a day.

“I smoke about a pack a day, but that fluctuates a lot,” he said. “What determines it overall is how the day or week has been.”

Most of Rolett’s closest friends smoke, he said.

Elizabethtown senior Jesse Willcut works with Rolett at the Technology Resource Center on campus. Their first conversation was over a cigarette outside.

“It gives me someone to hang out with whenever we’re at work and you want to smoke with someone,” he said.

Kathryn Steward, health educator at WKU’s Health Services, said nicotine ranks as one of the most addictive drugs.

“They become addicted, and they don’t even realize it,” she said.

Health risks that can arise in younger smokers include decreased sex drive, bad breath, tooth and gum decay, and an increased risk of asthma, she said. Lung cancer is often caused by long-term smoking and is not common in young smokers.

Rolett doesn’t talk about his smoking habit to his family, except for his stepmother, who constantly encourages him to quit, he said.

Rolett said his mother’s smoking offended him when he was a child.

“It had been drilled into my head that it was a bad, senseless thing to do,” he said.

Steward said many college students find it socially acceptable and make up excuses including, “I only smoke when I drink.”

“It’s not conscious,” she said. “You don’t say, ‘I’m going to be an addicted smoker.’ You find other reasons and excuses to continue smoking.”

Rolett said living above the Three Brothers bar downtown feeds his need to smoke.

“I smoke a lot more when I’m intoxicated,” he said. “I chain smoke. I can go through a pack in a night.”

Although he frequents bars often and enjoys smoking in them, he also isn’t totally opposed to the city’s new smoking ban, which prevents people from smoking inside restaurants and bars in Bowling Green.

“I’m for it and opposed to it at the same time,” Rolett said. “I’m for it because I understand the effects of secondhand smoke and how detrimental they are, and people should not be subjected to that.”

However, the smoking ban won’t affect his habit, he said.

“I think I’ll smoke less. I take that back actually,” he said. “I’ll still smoke, because walking fifteen feet outside won’t deter me.”