Quitting Smoking – A Social Phenomenon?

Could social influence be having a positive effect for once?

It’s easy to blame those people around us when we try to rationalise why some take up habits.  It’s just easy to say that the behaviour is learned from those around us – social learning theory – who’s behaviour is imitated.  I have been one of those people myself; turning to social learning theory to explain why children might learn negative behaviours or even placing part of the blame for violent behaviour on children playing video games who are made for teens and adults as they can get csgo gaming mouse..

However, one concept that I touched on when looking at the ‘Children See: Children Do’ video clip, was that we need to be good role models.  More support for this has come from research published last month that suggests that quitting smoking can be triggered by those around you quitting themselves.

The urge to smoke is contagious, but quitting apparently is, too. A team of researchers who showed that obesity can spread person-to-person has found a similar pattern with smoking cessation: A smoker is more likely to kick the habit if a spouse, friend, co-worker or sibling did. Christakis, 2008

Christakis’ findings back up previous studies showing that peer influence plays a key role in people’s decision to stop lighting up and provide evidence that the “buddy system” used by smoking cessation, weight loss and alcoholism programs to change addictive behaviour works.

[The researchers] examined the social lives of 12,067 people in the Framingham Heart Study, which has been tracking the health of residents of that Boston suburb from 1971 to 2003. They were able to reconstruct people’s ties to one another since participants had to list contact information for their family, friends, co-workers and neighbours so researchers would not lose track of them over the years. The prevalence of smokers in the Framingham study over the years mirrored national trends.

This could be explained in terms of social comparison (of which I talked about in relation to obesity a few months ago).  Now that smokers are being marginalised – being made to stand in the rain at pubs, having to ‘excuse’ themselves from friends to only have to be in the cold with the other smokers – could it be that we’re looking around us and thinking that it’s the time to quit?

However, the researchers are careful and state that it’s hard to tease out whether social influence is mainly responsible for a whole group kicking the habit. Other factors such as public bans on smoking or studies highlighting the harmful effects of smoking may also play a role.

It’s possible that the growing number of people who are quitting smoking may influence or inspire other smokers to quit too. However, if this kind of positive influence or even smoking cessation aids do not work for you, you might need to get help at addiction treatment centers instead.

What do you think? Any recent quitters around? Why did you give up the habit?

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10 Responses to “Quitting Smoking – A Social Phenomenon?”

  1. Richard G June 15, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    I’ve recently quit and it was my mother and father that suit first. Is it social comparison though? Could be that others are just acting as a cue to action.

    Great blog. Subscribed to the email feed already.

  2. Sarah June 15, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    I’m a smoker and proud. They’ve taken away my right to smoke in a pub and made us feel like outcasts standing in our little smoking shelters. But I’m still going to smoke. I enjoy it!

  3. loysten June 20, 2008 at 5:54 am #


    my father is a smoker.
    i told to leave that one but he won’t agree.

    for people like sarah, they love to smoke more
    than life.

    but it is a bad thing even it gives taste.



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  4. Nate Ring July 3, 2008 at 10:47 pm #

    It is a wonderful study. I read that as well, and there are other similar programs out there. Interestingly enough the tobacco cessation programs at Indiana University South Bend are really quite amazing. They tend to look at smoking much like one looks at alcoholism. But many programs can’t fix one thing that keeps some smokers going–much like myself. That is the bond of smokers. I don’t want to smoke while I’m at home and typically don’t have urges although after I’ve not had my pipe (I smoke pipe tobacco) in a few weeks while at the pub I really want to. Obviously I’ve associated the pub with smoking and drinking, I also associate my friends with smoking. Therein lies the problem. Is stopping smoking worth loosing my closest friends each who also smoke. Also, while at work or observing smokers at other places, they tend to have a “bond” because they will do something together that is almost exclusive anymore.

    They are sort of like the hardened soldiers of smoking therefore have pride to smoke, thus Sarah’s comment.

    All-in-all it is a complex issue, but a highly interesting one.

  5. Quit smoking promise September 4, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    There is some research to show that females may be more influenced by social factors. I would be interested in any evidence of the success of online groups.

  6. Quit Smoking October 8, 2008 at 9:16 pm #

    This is an excellent post! As a female I know that smoking is more of a risk for me than a male.

  7. QuitFags October 9, 2008 at 5:48 pm #

    In my country, the government recently banned smoking in public places and I think this will have a major effect on smokers overall – Hows that for influencing smoking by social factors?
    Great post by the way, looking forward to reading more.

  8. Quit smoking October 14, 2008 at 9:43 pm #

    In the UK the ban has had a huge impact. I personally have nothing against those who genuinely wish to smoke. However even amongst the smoking population, very few genuinely want to continue.

  9. Beatriz December 18, 2008 at 12:06 pm #

    Nice post, keep up the good work!

  10. need help quitting smoking October 5, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    I seldom hear smokers bring up support places to stop smoking. Places such as quit smoking message boards can help you to quit without alternatives whatsoever. Get an urge, just create a thread and receive support. It truly helps! Just go for it, you’ll be surprised how many users will attempt to help you quit smoking. Good luck.

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