Up In Smoke


Given that our university campus and our weekly nightlife are riddled with cigarettes, Bríd Doherty looks into the world of social smoking

We all know the health risks associated with smoking and the damage that it can do to one’s livelihood. However, in spite of these debilitating side effects, people still choose to smoke. No matter the number of advertisements promising a certain and painful death from smoking ‘cancer sticks’, cigarette sales never seem to seriously falter. More surprisingly, a new species of smoker has emerged from the nicotine-puffing branch of society. These people tend only to smoke at parties or outside bars and restaurants. These people are the social smokers.

The general consensus is that this distinct clique are not, like your average smoker, addicted to nicotine. They can smoke only when they choose and do not need to spark up in order to satisfy their nicotine cravings.

The existence of social smokers contradicts the perception of smoking as an all-or-nothing activity. It is generally deemed that people are either smokers, or they aren’t. Social smokers break this trend, as the majority of them will choose certain situations in which they will smoke and can go for long periods of time without putting a cigarette to their lips.

There are a number of characteristics that set social smokers apart from the hardcore pack-a-day branch of the smoking world. A social smoker will invariably scrounge cigarettes off others, or if they indulge in buying a pack, it will last them for weeks on end.

The second, most obvious, trait they possess is that of not actually inhaling much smoke. Watching them smoke is like watching someone who has just run a marathon attempt to breathe. The smoke exits as quickly as it entered. There isn’t the long, lingering inhale-exhale routine associated with a seasoned smoker. Social smokers will most likely be seen smoking in groups and, more often than not, there will be alcohol involved.

It may be perceived as rather baffling that the manner in which they smoke defeats the whole point of smoking. Isn’t the whole point of it to inhale the smoke to get the hit from the nicotine? No, it is not apparently. In a world so based upon image and in which people are striving to look good in the eyes of their peers, smoking can be an attractive activity.

With the recent rise to popularity of AMC’s hit show Mad Men, the image of the tar-infested lung and yellowing teeth is gradually being replaced by that of beautiful people living in an almost dreamlike era, with barely a moment passing where they do not have a cigarette stowed between their lips.

Smoking also goes hand in hand with the rebellion associated with being young and carefree. At some point in their lives, many people will choose to sample a cigarette to see what it has to offer. There is a very high possibility that most of our parents have smoked a cigarette during their youth. I only have to look at my own parents who are middle aged and frown heavily on the act of smoking. And yet, at the same time, both of them socially smoked during their university days.

Furthermore, there exists a pressure on young people to fit into the mould of their friends. Many people fall into this social smoker category when, during a night out, they choose to go outside with friends who smoke rather than be left alone inside a pub or nightclub. While standing outside with countless others around you puffing on cigarettes, it is undeniable that the temptation to try a cigarette becomes palpable.

Social smokers are a lucky bunch that began smoking casually, but it never graduated into a fully-fledged habit. However, it must not be forgotten that every cigarette that they choose to smoke is detrimental to their health. The more you choose to smoke, the more addictive it becomes.

If social smokers out there were to realise that they are embarking upon a path to addiction, perhaps they would consider quitting while they’re ahead. Such a realisation would save them the stress of having to scrape together a whopping eight euro and 50 cent for every time they want to pluck a cigarette from the tightly packed box.

Enjoying cigarettes at social occasions gives the sticks positive connotations that they should not have. Before individuals know it, they will be waking up in the morning unable to sleep any longer because they need a cigarette. Is it really worth the risk of addiction and the expense for a few cheeky cigarettes on a night out? I honestly don’t think so.