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Smoking popular social behavior


An occasional habit with heavy health risks is becoming more commonplace, some students say.

Melissa Zuspann, junior in civil engineering, and Ashley Winegard, freshman in art and design, are both social smokers. Winegard said she thinks social smoking, lighting up occasionally in certain social situations, is common. Zuspann agrees. "I know quite a few people that only smoke socially," Zuspann said. Meg Gerrard, professor of psychology, said smoking is similar to other social behaviors. Although Winegard and Zuspann said social smoking is common, Gerrard said generally, attitudes toward smoking have changed dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years. More smokers are conscious of where they smoke and are less likely to smoke when others may be negatively affected, Gerrard said. "People in general, including smokers, have a more negative opinion," she said, "[which] certainly has played a role in the amount of people who are smoking," she said. She relates the motivation to socially smoke to other social behaviors, like social eating and drinking. Gerrard used her own habit of eating chips and dip as an example of a purely social behavior. She does not usually eat chips and does not keep them in her house. However, if she is at a restaurant or at a friend's home where chips and dip are being served, she will partake. Another example she gave was someone who does not keep alcohol in his or her home, but when out with friends will order a beer. "Situations drive a fair amount of behavior," Gerrard said. Zuspann said she smoked socially in high school, a couple of weekends per month. But now she said she doesn't smoke as often because her boyfriend dislikes the habit. She had her last cigarette two weeks ago, the first in two months. Smoking is widely known to be addictive. Zuspann said she doesn't smoke regularly, because she enjoys being able to breathe. Consequences aren't something she said she considers when lighting up, though she knows her social smoking could lead to health problems in the future. "My health hasn't changed [yet]," Zuspann said. "I know it's bad for your health, like I'll get lung cancer if I continue to do it." However, the positive feeling smoking brings occasionally outweighs the risks, she said. "It's kind of like a buzz or a high like when you drink," Zuspann said. For others, like Winegard, smoking offers an outlet for stress along with social benefits. She said she smokes during stressful times, such as finals, and with people who are having a bad day. Winegard lit her first cigarette the first day she moved in to college. She had promised a friend she would try smoking, and he called her on it. Her smoking habit varies with her mood. "It's very sporadic," she said. "Sometimes I'll go through a whole pack in a weekend. Sometimes I'll go two or three months without smoking."

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