Lighting up the facts on social smoking

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It is a common scenario – on a night out or when you are with a group of friends who smoke, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and have a quick puff of a friend’s cigarette. We all know that one friend who claims to be just a “social smoker”. But is this really such a bad thing? Do all people who smoke socially end up becoming a 20-a-day smoker? Maybe it just depends on the person.

The definition of a social smoker is someone who smokes less than one cigarette a day, so they don’t smoke every day and only in certain social situations. But this can extend into addiction. We are all well aware that nicotine is addictive, yet some people are more susceptible to it than others. Most people who start off as social smokers or occasional smokers will eventually become a regular smoker, which could range from a 20-a-day to 60-a-day habit. You may not believe me, you may be adamant that this will not be you, but it has been proven.

Professor Robert West, leading smoking researcher at University College London, undertook a study of occasional/social smokers in 1995 (yes, you may think this data is old but it is still staggering) and found that about 80 per cent of occasional smokers find they cannot stop when they try.

The risks that are associated with smoking are exactly the same as the risks for social smokers. You may think that smoking a small amount will reduce the likelihood of certain risks; this is true for cancer, as the risk of cancer is proportional to the amount smoked. However, for heart disease and other major side-effects you increase your risk every time you smoke. I won’t bore you with a list of potential risks, as I’m sure they have been drummed into you at every available opportunity by parents and teachers alike, but just remember those risks every time you light up.

However, if you have decided you want to give up smoking, or need to give up because you can’t afford it on a student budget, then there is help out there. As of the 1st October, thousands of people across England are taking part in Stoptober, a 28-day challenge to stop smoking. This challenge is designed to help you live a smoke free life because if you stop for 28 days, you are five times more likely to give up for good.

If you have to smoke, it is better to smoke a little rather than a lot. You know your own body and you are well aware of the dangers, so it is completely up to you. Personally, I tried a cigarette and never wanted to go near one again. Oh, as an interesting fact, smoking can make your legs fall off. It is well-known that smoking leads to bad circulation and the leading cause of leg amputation is smoking. Take heed, smokers.

For more information on Stoptober, visit http://smokefree.nhs.uk/stoptober/

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