While heavy smoking has decreased, light and occasional cigarette use has actually increased. It’s a serious health issue because consuming even small amounts of tobacco may have serious consequences.
Intermittent smoking has increased by more than 40% since 1996, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Social smokers are adults who don’t smoke each day or smoke only a few cigarettes a day. They typically use tobacco only in certain social situations, especially when drinking alcohol with friends.
If you’ve been wondering if light or occasional smoking is safe, read this. Discover the benefits of quitting and strategies for social smokers who want to become tobacco free.
Benefits of Quitting:
1. Protect your heart. Even a single cigarette can have an immediate and dramatic effect on your heart. Your blood pressure increases, along with the risk of heart attack and stroke.
2. Reduce cancer risks. Compared to heart issues, the risk of lung cancer is more closely tied to the amount you smoke. While heavier smoking has more serious consequences, no amount is safe. There’s a 500% increase in lung cancer among women who report light or occasional smoking, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
3. Prevent passive smoking. You may also be concerned about your effect on others. Smoking exposes those around you to carcinogens and toxins.
4. Avoid addiction. Some adults can smoke occasionally for years without appearing to become dependent on nicotine. However, many more find themselves gradually smoking more than they intended or relapsing when they meant to sneak just one cigarette while trying to quit.
Tips for Quitting:
1. Keep a journal. Social smokers may not realize how many cigarettes they consume, especially when they borrow from others instead of buying their own. Try keeping a log for a month or more to spot your patterns.
2. Change your activities. Figure out the triggers that make you want to light up. That way you can substitute other activities.
3. Limit alcohol. One look at adults smoking outside bars proves that liquor is a top trigger. Cutting back on drinking at least temporarily might make it easier to stop smoking completely.
4. Manage stress. You may also have emotional reasons for wanting to smoke. Find other ways to soothe yourself like physical exercise or talking things over with a friend.
5. Replace nicotine. If you smoke daily or experience intense urges to smoke, nicotine replacement devices may help. Talk with your doctor. They may suggest keeping nicotine gum on hand.
6. Wait it out. You may also be able to manage any cravings by distracting yourself until they pass. After playing a video game for 5 minutes, you’re likely to find that you no longer want a cigarette.
7. Pick a quit date. If you like having a plan with detailed strategies in place, schedule a date for when you’ll stop smoking. That way you can prepare and have a checklist for what to do each day during the first few weeks.
8. Seek support. Some social smokers find it easy to quit, but others struggle with reaching their goals. Let your friends and family know how they can help. Call a quit smoking hotline or join a support group online or in your neighborhood.
9. Remember your purpose. Regardless of whether you smoke one pack a day or one cigarette a month, it helps to focus on your reasons for going tobacco free. Maybe you have a family history of heart disease or you want to be a positive role model for your children.
While there is some debate about the definition of social smoking, the impact on your health is clear. Quitting tobacco completely is the most effective way to protect your health and increase your chances of leading a long and active life.