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Social smoking is a step above habit

All the social smokers reading this need to unite.

Come on, let’s go. We social smokers really do not get enough credit, so let’s join forces to end the sour reputation we are given.

For those of you who are not up on the smoking lingo, a social smoker is someone who only smokes when they are with others. I am going to explain why social smoking really is not that bad in this column.

So that no one is mistaken, I do not promote social smoking or any smoking for that matter. There are too many health risks, but from my experience I do not believe social smoking is as bad as regular smoking.

How many of you social smokers have ever been at a party or bar where a regular smoker teases you for not being a “true smoker,” while a non-smoker stands by and tells you any kind of smoking is bad, even if you only do it occasionally.

That’s me. I like smoking at parties or bars, but I never do it elsewhere. I know the regular smokers and non-smokers who tease people like me are only doing so in good fun, so I’m returning the favor by writing this column.

A recent by study of 10, 904 college students from 119 universities found that 2,401 of those students smoked. 51 percent were social smokers. I found an article on WebMD that practically compared social smokers to drug users.

The article said researchers call social smokers “chippers,” a term used to define heroine users who try to avoid addiction by infrequent use of small drug dosages.

How could people apply a term associated with heroine users to social smokers? Let’s at least stay in the same ballpark here. They are using the correlation of addiction in both cases, but I really do not believe social smoking has that many risks of addiction. The same article reported that it is very hard for a regular smoker to cut down to social smoking.

I quit smoking regularly almost two years ago, in June of 2003. I did not touch another cigarette until a few months later, when I was back in Bowling Green in a college atmosphere with friends and parties. I have enjoyed social smoking ever since then, and I have never had the desire to smoke besides when I am out with friends on the weekends.

There are some weekends I don’t even smoke at all, and I could easily not do it at all. I do it mostly for the social aspect, because joining other smokers outside a party does indeed help you meet people. When I graduate in less than three weeks, chances are I will rarely ever smoke, even socially, because how hard is it to party like a college kid when you are working full time?

One doctor in the WebMD report actually verified this aspect of social smoking. He said that if people are honest, and truly only smoke during social situations, they really do have a significantly less chance of dependence.

Another doctor said in the same article that if healthy people smoke only one or two cigarettes per week, it is likely that something other than cigarette smoke will kill them. I personally do not think cigarette smoke will kill me. I have no symptoms of a nicotine addict, my breathing is absolutely up to par, and I do not plan to smoke socially much longer.

The Wausau Daily Herald published an article in which a registered nurse described how social smoking is actually a habit in itself. She said that if a person feels the need to smoke while having a drink or hanging out with people in certain places, they are already not in total control of their urges.

To this nurse’s credit, I will admit that when I smoke at bars or parties it is usually for the sole reason that I have an urge to. But as I mentioned above, I am proof that social smoking does not necessarily lead to addiction. The same goes for some of my friends who smoke socially, but have never been regular smokers. In fact, for people trying to quit after years of smoking regularly, it might work better to cut down to social smoking instead of going cold turkey.

So, to all you social smokers out there, we really do not need to feel ashamed. Social smoking really is not that bad after all.

E-mail Nicole with comments at [email protected].

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