I don't smoke...I socialise

January 18, 2014

Smokers justify their habit by claiming they are nothing more than a social smoker, despite many stubbing out up to a packet of cigarettes each day, reveals new research issued today (18 January 2014).

A survey of 2,000 smokers by The Co-operative Pharmacy* has found that almost a quarter (24 per cent) are in denial about their habit because of the stigma associated with it and now only class themselves as social smokers.  In reality, over a third of these smoke between 6-20 cigarettes a day.

The study also revealed smokers willingness to flout the law by lighting up in prohibited areas.  

Overall, three in five smokers had previously tried to give up (60 per cent) and women were more likely to have tried to quit than men (63 per cent compared to 57 per cent). 

Around one in six of those who had tried to quit smoking succeeded for over a year before being tempted into lighting up again.

But women were more likely to cite a lack of willpower for not attempting to quit – 22 per cent compared to 16 per cent of men. 

Friends were blamed as a common cause for people lighting up again with 13 per cent of respondents admitting they didn’t like being left alone on nights out while their mates went outside for a cigarette.

Other reasons people weren’t wholly successful in their attempts included drinking too much, their football teams losing and because they didn’t want to miss out on socialising with work colleagues. One in 20 (5 per cent) also felt like they were missing out on key business discussions with co-workers. 

Of those who did cave in to temptation on a quit attempt, almost half (47 per cent) reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked when they started up again. 

Half of respondents had smoked in a prohibited area (54 per cent) since the smoking ban came into force across the UK in 2007 (2006 in Scotland).  One in six smokers said this was because it was too wet and cold to smoke outside, one in seven (14 per cent) said they took a risk because the area wasn’t policed very well and one in 10 did so because they had never been asked to put their cigarette out.
Catherine Cox, Primary Care Manager from The Co-operative Pharmacy, said: “The smoking ban in public places has had a major effect on the health of the nation with a significant number of people giving up, but many smokers are convincing themselves that they are consuming less tobacco than they actually are by classing their habit as a ‘social’ one. People see it as more acceptable to be social smoker than admitting they regularly light up each day, even though our research shows that this is the case.

“Just smoking a few cigarettes a day has an impact on your health and the wellbeing of those around you. While quitting smoking is extremely difficult, it is encouraging to see that individuals are cutting down on the amount they smoke, even if they aren’t successful first time.  We know that many people don’t give up on the first attempt so staying positive and not being too hard on yourself can make all the difference. With a variety of different ways to help people stop smoking it is important that everyone finds a way that works for them.”

The Co-operative Pharmacy is supporting Public Health England’s January NHS Smokefree campaign to help smokers give up for good.  The campaign raises awareness of the damaging effect that toxins from smoking have on the blood, lungs, heart and brain.

Tobacco smoke contains toxic chemicals including carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Smoking still remains the biggest cause of premature death in England, accounting for 80,000 deaths a year, with half of all long-term smokers dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease. 

Public Health England’s National Director of Health and Wellbeing, Kevin Fenton, said: “Smoking has a huge impact on health and every time someone smokes, blood filled with harmful toxins circulates through the body in seconds - increasing the chances of a heart attack or stroke. By quitting, this will immediately bring about real benefits.  

“There are a variety of different ways to help people stop smoking and it is important that everyone finds a way that works for them. Pharmacists are easily accessible and well-placed to offer ongoing support, keeping motivation levels high along the way.”

As part of this campaign, smokers will be able to pick up the new NHS Quit Cards, which are available at almost 490 Co-operative pharmacies. The Quit cards are designed to help smokers quit successfully by helping them find the right support tool for them. The range of support includes:

  • Face to face support – The nearest pharmacy is never more than 20 minutes away. Ask at a Co-operative Pharmacy branch for more information about FREE** NHS support to quit smoking – people are four times more likely to stay smokefree with face-to-face support.  You can also speak to your local pharmacy team for expert advice on stop smoking medicines.  They can help you decide which products are right for you to help beat nicotine cravings.
  • Smokefree app - Highly interactive support including personalised motivational messages, delivered just when people need them, as well as the distractions tool – to help combat cravings when they strike.
  • Quit Kit - Practical and engaging tools to help individuals step-by-step in the comfort of their own home.
  • Daily email support - Smokefree’s newest support tool, and already over 70,000 people are benefiting from this.
  • Text support - Proven to double an individual’s chance of quitting successfully. For more information visit: www/pharmacy.co.uk or nhs.uk/smokefree

Additional Information:

*Online research conducted by One Poll among 2,000 smoking adults of all age groups across the UK. 
**Prescription charges may apply. Selected pharmacies only. Find participating branches at: www.pharmacy.co.uk

Contact Information:

Alex Wilson PR Manager (Non Food)
The Co-operative
0161 767 4281/07540 641368

Lindsay Colbeck Senior Public Relations Officer
The Co-operative
0161 767 4291/07713 267 499