Smoking socially causes more harm than you may think: Its dangers and some ways to quit


A new study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress suggests that social smokers are twice as likely to die of lung disease and eight times more likely to get lung cancer than those who do not smoke at all.

Social smokers only smoke when they hang out with their friends. Most people believe that occasional smoking does not do much harm. However, the new study suggests that social smokers who smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day are not much better off than heavy smokers who smoke 20 cigarettes per day.

Dr Pallavi Balte and Dr Elisabeth Oelsner, the study researchers, said in a news release, “Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but it’s easy to assume that if you only smoke a little, the risks won’t be too high.”

The study

For the study, the researchers followed 18,730 people from various ethnicities for about 17 years. The average age of the volunteers in the study was 61. In the 17 years, about 649 died of respiratory disease and 560 died of lung cancer. The study included three groups- non-smokers, social smokers (those who smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day) and heavy smokers (those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day).

Here is what they found:

About 1.8 percent of people in the non-smokers category died of respiratory diseases and about 0.6 percent died of lung cancer. In the social smokers group, about 3.3 percent died of respiratory diseases and about 4.7 percent died of lung cancer.

In the heavy smokers group, over 10 percent died of respiratory diseases and about 12.9 percent died of lung cancer.
The rate of death from respiratory diseases in social smokers was found to be about half that of heavy smokers while the rate of death from lung diseases in social smokers was about 1/3rd that of heavy smokers.

Jørgen Vestbo, professor of Respiratory Medicine and at the University of Manchester, UK and Chair of the European Respiratory Advocacy Council, said in the news release, “Cutting down on smoking is a step in the right direction, as quitting tobacco is one of the best ways to protect the lungs and our overall health, but it’s clear that there is no safe level of smoking.”

Quitting social smoking

Experts say that social smokers don’t even realise when their habit becomes more frequent. According to an article published on the University of Texas website, here are some ways you can quit your social smoking habit:

1. Educate yourself: Read more to know about the effects of light or social smoking. Along with respiratory diseases and cancer, casual smoking also increases your risk of cataract, heart diseases and premature ageing.

2. Keep a journal: Try and recognise your smoking habits by keeping a journal. Not down the things that trigger you to smoke, why you choose to smoke, how many cigarettes did you smoke and when and where you smoked.

3. Find other ways to spend time with your friends: Instead of smoking, you can find other ways to spend time with your friends, like going for dinner or watching movies for instance.

4. Ask for help: If nothing works, ask your friends and family to help you avoid smoking. Tell them to not offer you a cigarette the next time you are with them.

And finally, visit your doctor to know what other options you may have that could help you quit.

For more information, read our article on the Effects of smoking on the body.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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