What are the effects of social smoking?

Do you smoke occasionally or just on nights out?

Written by spunout


Many people may not smoke on a daily basis, but will smoke socially. The same can be said of vaping. While you might think this is better than a daily habit, the truth is that any amount of smoking is harmful to your health, and nicotine addition can start after just a few days, a few cigarettes or a few times vaping. 

The negative effects of cigarettes and vaping happen even if you only smoke or vape occasionally. As well, the likelihood is that eventually, social smoking can lead to a more frequent habit.

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 smoking or vaping behaviours.

Many people who smoke socially do not see themselves as a smoker, or as having an addiction to nicotine. Although they may have only smoked in social situations, usually they will go on to become regular smokers.

Why do some people smoke socially?

There are a few reasons why a person might start smoking socially.

They believe they won’t get addicted

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 to smoke

Some people start smoking socially because their friends or people around them do it, or they see it as a part of the night out, or because they don’t want to feel left out when their friends go to the smoking area.

Smoking while drinking

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.

What you need to know

Social smoking is not safe, and causes harm to your health. There are a number of things that are important to keep in mind if you are a social smoker.

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, addiction, and negative mental health effects. There is no safe lower limit of intake.

Social pressure

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 okay to say “no thanks, I’ll pass”. 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. Nicotine produces physical and mood-altering effects in your brain that are temporarily pleasing. These effects make you want to use nicotine again and again and this quickly leads to dependence. You can start out having a few cigarettes 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. 

Smoking and drinking at the same time has even higher health risks

Drinking alcohol while using tobacco increases the 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 research has found that even small amounts of alcohol boost the pleasurable 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 cut down on alcohol for a while.

Quitting is possible

It is possible to quit smoking. 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 spunout.ie/quit

Disclaimer: There is more than one way to quit smoking. You may need to try a few different things to find what is right for you. For advice and support on quitting, visit SpunOut.ie/QUIT

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