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What is social smoking?
Social smoking is smoking that only occurs in social situations such as in pubs, nightclubs or parties. By definition, social smokers do not smoke alone or as part of their daily routine.
Some scientists define social smoking as smoking one cigarette or less a day.

How common is it?
Social smoking is very common. In fact, social smoking rates have increased while ordinary smoking rates have decreased. Bit of a mixed bag there!
Why is it common?
Most people believe that they won’t get addicted, so see it as an enjoyable way to relax or to get in the mood.
Peer pressure. Some people start smoking socially because their friends encourage it, as part of nights’ out.
Alcohol use. Drinking leads to a loss of inhibitions, so you may find yourself reaching for a cigarette then.
What you need to know:
  • Sadly, there is no safe limit for cigarette smoking. In other words, scientists cannot find any evidence to suggest that smoking a few cigarettes socially is less harmful than smoking 20 every day. No matter what the frequency, smoking still exposes you to a variety of harmful chemicals. So there is no safe lower limit of intake, like there is for alcohol.
  • Social smoking can easily lead to regular smoking. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. In fact, some scientists believe that it is even more addictive than heroin or cocaine. Eek! So you can start out having a few cigs on nights out and end up buying a 20 pack every day. In particular, be very careful if there is a history of addiction in your family.
  • Pure social smoking is actually very rare. People may start off smoking like this, but usually it turns into a regular habit.
  • Social smoking is not a good way to cut down on cigarettes. If you want to stop smoking, you are much more likely to succeed if you follow an official smoking cessation programme. Of course, a tiny minority of people can make the switch from daily smoking to social smoking, but it’s uncommon.
  • Social smoking can increase your risk of developing heart disease, developing a blood clot or even of having a stroke.
  • Social smoking increases your risk of developing various cancers, such as liver cancer, lung cancer, oesophageal cancer, stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer. It also increases your risk of developing gallbladder disease.
  • Social smoking increases your risk of respiratory problems, such as chest infections and asthma.
  • Social smoking can cause infertility. It seems to take female social smokers longer to conceive a child. Men’s sperm quality also seems to be affected.
  • Social smoking can cause problems if you are on the pill. Women who smoke socially are also at risk of blood clots and DVT. In fact, some doctors recommend non hormonal contraception for all women who smoke. This needs to be discussed with your doctor.
  • Be aware that alcohol actually increases the desire to smoke, so if you are trying to cut down or stop your social smoking, it might be good to lay off the sauce for a while.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Guideline
Drug Type
Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Prevention, Harm reduction
December 2016
Corporate Creators
Place of Publication
Notes is a not-for-profit website created by young people for the young people of Ireland and Northern Ireland between the ages of 16 and 25. We give easy access to relevant, reliable, and non-judgemental advice to assist other young people in making informed decisions.
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