Are cigarette poachers on the prowl at UTSA?

Imagine this hypothetical scenario: a lone UTSA student arrives at school an hour early and finds a place to sit while he waits for classes to begin. The end of the school year is approaching fast and all the second semester mechanical engineering student wants to do is just relax, unwind for a few moments, and not think about tests, essays, and mathematical equations. The student pulls out a fresh pack of Marlboros and leisurely tears open the pack.

Next, he methodically shakes out a cigarette and discards the crumpled plastic wrapper into a nearby trash can. Finally, the student produces a lighter and, in one practiced motion, manipulates the igniter to produce a flame that passes over the end of the cigarette. Inhaling deeply, then exhaling slowly, the student sends rivulets of pungent nicotine smoke rolling across the university.

The student sinks slowly onto the wooden bench and begins to relax, when he suddenly sees – out of the corner of his eye – a shadowy silhouette approaching. The future engineer sighs inwardly and tries to position himself away from the approaching figure. A few seconds later, an all-too-familiar piercing wail interrupts the solitude of the afternoon day.

“Hey buddy, do you think I might be able to bum a cigarette,” asks the stranger with an amiable smile. The smoker attempts to smile and altruistically produces the pack of cigarettes and offers one to the stranger, along with a short response like, “no problem, amigo.”

The stranger thanks his momentary friend and leaves to find a wooden bench of his own. A few minutes pass by and just as the engineering major is about to finish the last drag on his cigarette, he feels a light tap on his shoulder. The smoker groans and turns to face yet another amiable smile and extended hand.

Are people bumming cigarettes at UTSA more frequently? Are these cigarette poachers taking advantage of their fellow students’ giving nature? How prevalent is this cigarette poaching phenomenon and how do people feel about people supporting more and more smokers’ habits with their hard earned cancer sticks? Or does a cigarette poaching trend even exist at UTSA?

“I know people who try to quit and don’t want to buy packs anymore, so they ask other people for cigarettes when they really need them. They call it quitting but it’s really just quitting smoking their ‘own’ cigarettes. It bothers me when people or friends repeatedly do it, but I understand the cravings when they don’t have their own, ” says junior communication major Anil Gonnabathula.

While most students seem to be okay with their fellow students asking for the occasional cigarette, other students are irate: they feel that campus cigarette poaching may be getting out of hand. Many of these cigarette poachers reportedly rely on elaborate excuses to satisfy their nicotine addiction.

“There are cigarette poachers who lurk around the McH waiting for unsuspecting victims whom have arrived in a hurry rushing through their morning cigarettes. The poachers ask, always claiming that they just ran out or left their pack in their car. Assholes,” says junior English major Sonia Gonzales.

Based upon the people that I have interviewed and my own past experience. I can assert that there is a small segment of people at UTSA that rely on others to feed their cigarette habit. I also believe that this cigarette poaching activity is a pretty common occurrence. I hypothesize that there may be a select contingent of people that poach cigarettes several times a week and have reason to believe that an even smaller segment of students that poach several (2-5) cigarettes a day.

“It doesn’t bother me; people’s reactions surprise me more. Always expecting or wanting some type of exchange of goods. Also, the way people approach me for cigs usually with puppy eyes wanting / needing their fix. Hey man, we are all friends in the end,” said senior biology major Sophia Lorenzo.