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"Social Smoking" Common Term Among College Crowd; Many "Graduate" to Daily Smoking
[May 21, 2014]

"Social Smoking" Common Term Among College Crowd; Many "Graduate" to Daily Smoking

PHOENIX --(Business Wire)--

Commencement is now behind many college seniors. Some may have identified with being "social smokers" through college, but the pomp and circumstance milestone will force them to make good on their promise to family, spouses and friends: "I'll quit when I graduate."

While the promise is common among young adult smokers to quit after certain milestones in their lives, like graduation, the task will prove to be more monumental than they think, given the addictive nature of nicotine. A paper by the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco says that 1 out of every 2 college freshmen who smoke at low levels will still be smoking when they are seniors and that as many as 30 percent will convert to daily smokers.

"Freshmen who smoke on occasion will likely become more frequent smokers as time goes by," said Courtney Ward, ADHS BTCD Chief, Office of Tobacco Prevention & Cessation. "Most deny being smokers using the term 'social smoker,' which implicitly discounts dependence, however, we know that nicotine is highly addictive and over time, smokers train their brain to need more of it."

Ideas about what a social smoker is or isn't are at the heart of a lot of anti-smoking research. Young adults rationalize their smoking ehavior by saying that they only smoke during certain occasions, like when out with friends, at a bar or maybe only on weekends. However, according to the 2012 Surgeon General's Report on Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, progression from occasional to daily smoking almost always occurs by age 26.

For those who plan to make good on their promise to quit smoking now that college is complete, Ward offers some words of advice, "Use the change to your advantage, create new routines and make a plan to quit." Other key tips for graduates who plan to follow through on their promise to quit follow:

  1. Create a new circle of friends this summer. Many occasional smokers pick up a cigarette when they are with certain groups of friends who smoke; expand your network to friends who don't smoke.
  2. Stay busy and avoid boredom. Occasional smokers say sometimes they light up just because they are bored. This summer take a hike, volunteer at a new organization or try a new activity.
  3. Don't let stress get the best of you. Job hunting or a new job may be a source of stress. Recognize it before it happens and have an outlet other than picking up a cigarette.

THE CIGNAL is Arizona's anti-smoking program aimed at helping adolescent and young adult smokers. The program offers a website ( with customized tips and advice for young smokers and a toll free helpline (1-800-55-66-222) where they can talk to quit coaches specializing in young adult smokers, for free. Visit the program's Facebook (News - Alert) page at

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