Social smoking

Only smoke when you're drunk? Or with friends? And you never buy them yourself, so you're not 'really' a smoker, are you? We look into the slippery slope of social smoking… can we just pinch a fag?

friends smoking

"I only smoke when I'm with you." "Me too."

What is social smoking?

There’s no scientific definition, but generally a social smoker is someone who only smokes cigarettes when they’re with other people. The amount they actually smoke varies on what they’ve been up to. They may smoke loads on a big night out, then nothing for weeks after. Or they may occasionally ‘pop out’ for the odd one with their smoker friends.

Social smokers don’t consider themselves smokers, rarely buy cigarettes for themselves, and don’t think they’re addicted to nicotine.

Is social smoking bad for you?

‘Surely the odd fag isn’t that bad?’ you think. But, sorry, all smoking is bad for your health. In fact, there’s not one redeeming health feature of smoking. Unless it’s the fact that smoking can help you poo when you’re a bit blocked up in the morning.

“You are either a smoker or you are not,” says Jennifer Ruddick, from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). “There is no safe level of smoking and smoking one or two cigarettes a day or even less frequently will harm your health. Similarly, lung cancer is a risk of smoking no matter how few cigarettes you smoke.”

Why do people socially smoke?

Because, much as the government has tried to ghettoise smoking, it is a sociable thing to do, especially if most of your friends are smokers. Other reasons include:

  • You may not think the occasional cigarette is bad for you,
  • Having something to hold with your hand can make social situations feel easier,
  • It can help you de-stress if you’re under pressure,
  • Yes, it still looks quite cool.

When does social smoking become actual smoking?

Lots of apparently-social smokers don’t realise just how many fags they get through each week. Try keeping a tabs on it and you may be surprised how much it tots up. Other signs you’re actually, deep down, a filthy smoker include:

  • You start buying your own cigarettes here and there because you feel guilty for bumming so many,
  • You start smoking alone,
  • The thought of not being able to smoke when you next go out worries you,
  • You’ve started thinking about and wanting cigarettes when you’re not smoking, in fact, even reading this article has made you quite want one,
  • You don’t get headaches or feel sick when you smoke, even though you did when you first started.

How do I quit being a social smoker?

You would think it was easier, wouldn’t ya? As you’re not addicted to the nicotine and all that. However, social smoking is a habit – and habits are tough to break. Tough, but possible.

  • Ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’ every time you crave a cigarette. It can help find the underlying reason you’re socially smoking. Repeatedly asking yourself this can scare you into realising you’ve got more of a problem than you thought.
  • Try and cut down on your drinking when out. We know, why take away ALL THE FUN THINGS? But if you associate smoking with being pissed, removing the ‘being pissed’ element can help your willpower in that first tricky month.
  • Hold your drink in your smoking hand the first couple of times you go out. It will help make the hand feel less ’empty’
  • Buddy up to your non-smoking friends. You know, the ones who smell much nicer, and don’t stand shivering in minus ten degrees outside the pub. Often we associate habits with certain people, and, no doubt, there’s some certain people you always end up smoking with. Love ’em as you may, perhaps stop joining them for their jaunts outside until you’ve built up a bit more inner strength.
  • Read about the 4000 toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke – and then remember you’re actively putting this stuff in your lungs.

Photo of friends smoking by Shutterstock

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

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