Friends don’t like friends who smoke

By Ann Griswold • Published: August 28th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s not much fun to be a smoker these days, what with higher cigarette prices, worrisome health risks and strict bans on lighting up in public. In times like these, the one thing a smoker could really use is a friend… but new research finds even those are hard to come by.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that smokers are not as popular as they once were. Scientists from the University of California followed a social network of more than twelve-thousand people from 1971 to 2003. In the psychedelic days of bellbottoms and free love, smokers enjoyed just as much popularity as the rest of society. But as the years went by, smokers have gradually been shunned to the outer reaches of their social circles.

The study revealed some good news, though: When people kick the habit, they tend to regain their former glory in the social network. And when one person quits, others follow suit. If you’re a smoker and your spouse quits, the likelihood you’ll continue to light up drops by sixty-seven percent. If your friend or co-worker quits, you’re thirty-five percent less likely to remain a smoker. And if your sibling quits, your chances of remaining a smoker drop by twenty-five percent. Interestingly, people with at least a year of college education are most easily influenced by their friends’ habits.

The study’s take-home lesson seems to be that quitting smoking… like any daunting task… is better enjoyed with friends.