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The risks of being a "social smoker"

Have you heard yourself saying "But I only smoke with mates or when I have a drink"? Or "But I only smoke 1-2 cigs"? Then this article is for you.

You may remember the Quit television advertisement about how every cigarette is doing you damage? Research shows that even low levels of smoking can cause the full range of smoking-related health risks.

Health risks of social smoking

Even if you smoke 'only' 6-10 cigarettes per month, you are almost twice as likely to die early than someone who has never smoked. 

Compared with someone who has never smoked, if you smoke between 15-90 cigarettes per month, you:

  • are 80% more likely to die earlier

  • are 70% more likely to die of heart disease

  • have almost six times the risk for dying of lung cancer

  • have over three times the risk for dying of lung disease.

On average, people who smoke on some days lose about five years of their life, compared to people who never smoked.

Besides, each cigarette raises your blood pressure and your heart rate, makes your blood stickier and restricts the oxygen available to your lungs, organs and muscles. There is no safe level of smoking.

The good news is that stopping smoking reduces your risk! Read about the many benefits of stopping smoking.

Tips to beat the temptation of social smoking

If you smoke occasionally, or one or two a day, you’re more likely to be habitually addicted to smoking rather than nicotine addicted. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy to quit – we understand that the habit is powerful, and the cigarettes you smoke are likely your favourites. Here are some tips to help you beat the temptation of social smoking:

  • Keep your hands busy: still take your breaks and chat with friends, but keep those hands busy: worry beads, stress ball, bracelet, watch, coin, water bottle.

  • Make changes: in the first weeks of quitting, avoid social gatherings, go easy on the alcohol. Drink water between alcoholic drinks – baby steps.

  • Set a quit date: quitting is tough no matter how many cigarettes you're smoking. The same steps apply: do the prep. Set a quit date. Use the 4Ds (delay the cig, deep breathe, drink water, do something else). Celebrate the milestones. 

  • Call Quitline (13 7848) or request a Quitline callback: Quitline counsellors understand the particular difficulty occasional or social smokers have with stopping smoking. 

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Last updated: December 2021.

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