Just one drag. A few puffs of a cigarette while partying with friends. Could having a cigarette while socializing turn into a harmful habit? Science finds light smoking is still detrimental to physical health.
It’s not difficult to see why the allure of nicotine can push aside the physical health detriments. The chemical temporarily reduces anxiety and lifts mood. That is, until withdrawal kicks in, which pulls many smokers into addiction, even if the habit is initially indulged for social reasons. The organization says those who have friends or family who smoke are more likely to take up the habit themselves, implying a strong potential for peer pressure in smoking culture.
Research provided by Harvard Medical School reveals light or social smokers oftentimes answer “no” when asked by medical professionals if they smoke. It’s more common that some may think, with nearly a quarter of total smokers indulging only a few times a day or less often. While light smoking is less harmful than partaking in the habit many times a day for an extended time, experts such as Dr. Rebecca Schane believe casual smoking still increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, among a host of other problems.
Saul Shiffman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, isolates the most common reason for social smoking: “They’ll drink at dinner with friends, they’ll drink in the evenings on weekends — but they don’t drink in the car, or first thing in the morning,” he explains, “it’s the confinement of use to particular situations that marks someone who uses a drug but not in an addictive way.”
The American Cancer Society finds this kind of smoking in the teen years greatly increases the chances of nicotine addiction. This demographic in general is most vulnerable to pro-smoking images in the media. The Surgeon General’s Report in 2012 verifies nine out of 10 smokers start by the age of 18 and 99 percent begin before 26 years old.
Social smoking is no secret to the tobacco industry, as noted by Dr. Shane. In her research, Dr. Shane found those who smoked casually typically denied nicotine addiction, had a false sense of security regarding the negative medical effects of smoking and self-categorized as a nonsmokers.
As of 2013, nearly 18 out of every 100 American adults regularly smoke cigarettes. According to research acquired in 2014, approximately 25 percent of high school students and 8 percent of middle school students experimented with tobacco products.
Quitting smoking can be challenging and users have many different methods of quitting the habit. Nicotine patches, gum and lozenges help users refrain from ingesting poisonous toxins in cigarettes without suffering from nicotine withdrawal.
Withdrawing from nicotine can trigger symptoms of intense cravings, tingling in the extremities, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain and more. Consuming more nicotine can feel tempting in the face of these discomforts, but quitting smoking will prolong life, not to mention save smokers money.