Is “Social Smoking” Dangerous?

an image of a person smoking for social smoker article

“I’m Just a Social Smoker”

“I only smoke when I am in a social gathering, when I club, or when my friends offer me cigarettes.”

If this is something you would say and you are still skeptical about the adverse consequences of smoking on your health, read on and think again.

Smoking is the largest cause of preventable death in the world. In Singapore, about 6 Singaporeans die prematurely from smoking-related diseases each day. Smoking-related diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the nation’s top killers. Smoking also predisposes one to several types of infections, including tuberculosis, diabetes and reproductive disorders, to name a few.

“Since I’m merely a ‘social smoker’, how bad could it be just to take a puff of smoke?”

If you think that there’s no harm in smoking occasionally, then you’re wrong. Lung cancer can begin from cell damage caused by smoking just one cigarette. Research has found that one of the cancer-causing substances in cigarette smoke (benzopyrene) directly attacks and damages the p53 gene which prevents cancer cells from growing. When a p53 gene is damaged in a lung cell, a deadly tumour may start to grow, resulting in lung cancer. Although it is true that more DNA damage or cell mutations result from heavier smoking, it is not the cumulative total of mutations that determines whether or not you get cancer, but rather the right combination of mutations.

“I’m not a heavy/regular smoker, is it really that bad?”

Indeed, light and intermittent social smoking might be less harmful than heavy smoking due to the decreased exposure to the harmful chemicals and carcinogens in cigarettes. However, once you start smoking and get exposed to these harmful chemicals, your organs are negatively impacted. An additional risk social smokers might have is nicotine withdrawal. This include drowsiness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and craving for tobacco). This might prompt supposedly light smokers to reach for a cigarette again and again. One can go days or even weeks without smoking, but then experience a deep, sudden urge to do it.

Smoking doesn’t only affect you, but those around you too!

Besides the adverse health consequences that social smoking inflicts on the individual, it also harms innocent individuals who happen to be around. This is due to the effects of second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is a mixture of side stream smoke given off by the smouldering cigarette and mainstream smoke exhaled back into the air by active smokers. There is sufficient evidence to warrant concern that the health of non-smokers may be injured by second-hand smoke, just as active smokers are harmed by mainstream smoke.

So, if you thought that taking a few puffs of smoke was harmless, think again. Is it really worth it to expose yourself to the multitude of health risks that accompany social smoking, just for those few moments of adrenaline rush?

Dr Vincent Chong
Family Physician and Cluster Head (Primary Care Division)
Healthway Medical (Compassvale)
Blk 267 Compassvale Link #01-04 Singapore 540267

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