Are ‘social smokers’ still addicted to cigarettes?
Smoking is not a one size fits all activity – different smokers will have a different daily cigarette average – for some this will be as many as 60 a day, for others, it will be much fewer. And for social or occasional smokers, it may be less than one cigarette a day. So what is so-called social smoking? Why do people do it, and just because they only smoke in certain social situations, does this mean that they are not addicted?
Social or occasional smokers are usually defied on the terms that they smoke less than an average of one cigarette a day, ie. they do not smoke every day. The reasons why people become social smokers vary – although it is likely to be driven by the predominance of smoking within an individual’s friendship group, and the desire to ‘fit in’.
So are social smokers still addicted to smoking? Professor Robert West, leading smoking researcher at University College London, undertook a study of occasional/social smokers in 1995 and found that about 80 per cent of occasional smokers find they cannot stop when they try. Commenting on the findings, he said:
“One way addiction works is by forming an association between situations where a person would typically smoke, which then creates the impulse to smoke when they find themselves in that situation again”.
So ultimately, it seems that unlike smokers whose cravings for cigarettes are such that they need to smoke every single day, social smokers may be able to refrain from cigarettes on a daily basis, but ultimately, the evidence suggests that they are still addicted – as they will consistently return to the act of smoking in certain social situations.