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The myth that social smoking is OK

Hanna-Mariam Chowdhury

“One won’t hurt” – that’s the way social smokers put it. Just 15.5% of the UK population smokes, yet 24% smoke “socially”.

A study has revealed that over a quarter of Brits smoke recreationally, while the majority state that they enjoy the effects of nicotine. Twenty per cent of respondents stated that they smoked due to their friends dabbling in the habit, whereas 9% say they do it to simply fit in.

Although only 15.5% of the British population identify themselves as smokers, a considerably larger number of Britons claim they like to smoke from time to time, believing they will not necessarily becoming addicted to cigarettes and not labelling themselves as full-time smokers.

This category of smokers is labelled “social smokers”, as majority of these individuals don’t have the desire to smoke alone, due to the desire to enjoy the recreational drug with friends in a particular surrounding.

Vapourlites.com was interested in this special demographic of Britons and sought to investigate the number of people who recreationally smoke, including their gender, age and why they do it.

The brand conducted a survey of 1,615 Britons, ranging in age from 18-45, and found the following.
24% of respondents identify themselves as “social smokers”.
Social smoking is more common among those aged 18-25, with an almost equal balance between men (52%) and women (48%).
Out of the total number of participants, only 388 said that they smoke socially.
38% smoke occasionally (between once and twice a month).
36% smoke less than once a month.
15% smoke more than three times a week and 11% smoke regularly (more than a couple of times a week).

The survey revealed the most frequently reported reasons for socially smoking.
42% of participants declared they enjoy the effects of cigarettes. Smoking can often cause the user to feel lightheaded, which becomes the “rush” a lot of smokers enjoy.
31% of participants declared they use social smoking as an excuse to go outside. Night clubs and bars usually provide a smoking area and it is a viable excuse to go outside for a cigarette. Moreover, you’re more likely to smoke when around others who do so.
19% of participants declared, “If all my friends are smoking, I don’t like to be the odd one out.”

The results showed that more women cited a fear of being excluded and not wanting to be the only smoker, along with the excuse to go outside, as their reasons for socially smoking. In contrast, male participants enjoyed the effects of cigarettes and some respondents claimed that smoking makes them “feel more drunk”.

Vapourlites.com asked respondents for reasons why they only smoke recreationally as opposed to continuously. Most participants (67%) answered it is was due to their health; knowing that smoking is dangerous. Followed closely after was the expense of smoking (17%), and after that 11% stated that smoking does not appeal to them when they are sober and 4% answered that they don’t smoke regularly because of social disapproval.

Social smoker, Holly, 25, commented, “I will have a cigarette most times I go out, especially if I’m with my friends who smoke and we end up in the smoking area. There’s always a friendly vibe and it’s an area you can actually hear people to have a proper chat. You often get offered a cigarette and in that kind of environment it’s hard to turn down. You don’t want to be the only one not smoking and because you’ve been drinking, you don’t think about the risks, you think one won’t hurt. It’s funny because any other time I don’t like even the smell of cigarette smoke, but when I’m out I don’t seem to mind.”

Katherine Shipman, a psychologist who has researched social smoking states that social smokers aren’t necessarily addicted to nicotine, but to the act of smoking. “Social smokers aren’t using nicotine to avoid withdrawal symptoms, but instead for the psychoactive effects; the ritual, the sensation of the smoke and the high nicotine provides”.

ELN says:
People who think they are “social smokers” are almost all deluding themselves. The vast majority of them are on a slippery slope towards smoking frequently or having a lifelong struggle to give up and not smoke again. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, even if taken in small quantities. When that small intake occurs in pleasurable circumstances, the brain will associate the substance with the feeling. Someone in their 20s could smoke socially for some years. Then, if they go through a stressful event, their brain will crave the nicotine, just to help them through. Before they know it, they will be dependent on the intake of nicotine – either from cigarettes, or from electronic devices that can be used to deliver the substance. It won’t be good to their health or their pocket, however they take it. Stopping smoking is not easy, with side effects including depression, anxiety, loss of concentration, sleep disturbance, etc. It can take ten years of not smoking before the side effects of giving up wear off.

While social smokers sit round outside pubs and clubs, they are showing the younger generation that that is how to have fun. The myth repeats itself and the next generation is delivered to the companies that sell smoking products and paraphernalia.

The cost of social smoking to the taxpayer, as the social smokers become more committed smokers, in health care is enormous. The human cost is worse. We can only hope that this research by Vapourlites.com alerts the authorities to the foolishness and ignorance present in social smokers. A public health campaign is needed to educate the young about the follies of social smoking. And pubs and clubs which provide smoking zones outside their premises should do more to ensure these are not pleasant areas which encourage young people to come and dabble in smoking.

•Read the research:
The research featured in the above material was conducted by Vapourlites.com.
Research which concludes that social smoking is harmful can be found by any search engine. One example, which concludes that social smoking is just as harmful as anti-social smoking, can be found here:
Social smoking is as harmful as lighting up regularly

•Read more about it:
Public Health cuts threaten smoke-free targets
Council joy goes up in smoke

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