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Social smoking

Do you smoke occasionally or just on nights out?


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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What is a social smoker?

A social smoker is someone who usually only smokes in social situations such as in pubs, nightclubs, parties and music events. Many social smokers do not smoke every day and may only smoke on a night out or with friends. These social situations act as social cues or triggers for tobacco use. Many people who smoke socially do not see themselves as a smoker, or as having an addiction to nicotine and although start out smoking in these social situation, usually go on to become regular smokers.

Why do some people smoke socially?

  • Most people believe that they won’t get addicted if they only smoke occasionally, so they see it as an enjoyable way to relax. Unfortunately, this is a myth because nicotine addiction kicks in quite quickly.
  • Peer pressure: some people start smoking socially because their friends encourage it, or they see it as as a fun part of the night out, or because they don't want to feel left out when their friends go to the smoking area.
  • Alcohol: drinking alcohol leads many people to let their guard down, so some people smoke only when they have had a drink when normally they wouldn't smoke at all.

Check out this lighthearted video from Canada that likens social smoking to social farting!

What you need to know

  • Sadly, because of the disease causing properties of tobacco there is no safe limit for cigarette smoking. The social smoker is vulnerable to the same harmful health effects as regular smokers. No matter what the frequency, smoking still exposes you to thousands of harmful chemicals. So there is no safe lower limit of intake, like there is for alcohol.
  • Social pressure from peers often makes people do things they normally wouldn’t do in order to fit in and maintain friendships. Young people who have friends who smoke are much more likely to become smokers themselves so it can be useful to develop strategies to deal with this. Remember it’s ok to say “no thanks, I’ll pass” you can always add in something like “I’m not a chimney” or “I like my brain the way it is thanks” Eventually they will get the message and stop asking you to smoke.
  • Social smoking can easily lead to regular smoking. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet in fact; some scientists believe that it is even more addictive than heroin or cocaine. Eek! Nicotine produces physical and mood altering effects in your brain that are temporarily pleasing. These effects make you want to use tobacco again and again and this quickly leads to dependence. So you can start out having a few cigs on nights out and end up a regular smoker buying a pack every day. Pure social smoking is actually very rare. People may start off smoking like this, but usually become regular smokers over a period of time. 
  • Drinking alcohol while using tobacco increases risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, oesophagus and liver even more than drinking alcohol or using tobacco by itself. It's interesting to note that researcher have found that even small amounts of alcohol boosts the pleasureable effects of nicotine, which would increase the desire to smoke when drinking alcohol. Social smokers also tend to drink more alcohol than non smokers so if you are trying to stop your social smoking, it might be good to lay off the sauce for a while.
  • If you want to stop smoking, you are much more likely to succeed if you get some help.

Get help and advice to QUIT smoking

  • Visit Quit.ie for tips on how to quit smoking and to sign up for an online quit plan.
  • Call the Quitline Freephone on 1800 201 203 to talk to someone who understands and can help you quit.
  • Check out the Quit Facebook page to read stories from others who have quit smoking and to share your own. 
  • You can download the Quit Heroes app for your phone for free.
  • Check out SpunOut's articles on quitting smoking and much more on www.spunout.ie/quit
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Published March 5th, 2013
Last updated April 30th, 2017
Tags smoking social smoking health
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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