A common fear of many smokers who want to quit is that they will lose many people in their social network―family, friends or co-workers―when they quit.
In fact, the opposite is true, according to a new study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Those who quit smoking tended to increase their number of meaningful friendships after quitting, and those friends were less likely to smoke.
Results are based on a sample of 691 adult smokers from a smoking-cessation trial conducted in Madison and Milwaukee, Wis. by researchers at the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research (UW-CTRI).
Researchers interviewed participants who smoked about their friends and associates. They asked all participants to describe their social groups, and analyzed how that changed during the three years after quitting.
Smokers who quit were more likely to transition to larger social networks, especially amongst participants who had the highest levels of exposure to other smokers before quitting. In other words, quitting was associated with anincrease in the number of people, especially non-smokers, in people’s social networks.
“Clinicians can use results from this study to reassure smokers that quitting tends to increase, not decrease, the size of social networks,” said lead author Dr. Megan Piper, UW-CTRI Associate Director of Research. “Many smokers tell us cigarettes are their best friend, and that doesn’t have to be the case. We found our patients who quit expanded their social networks and developed meaningful relationships after they quit smoking.”
Smokers at baseline who had social networks with the highest smoking levels were those most likely to continue smoking. However, when such smokers were able to quit smoking, they tended to develop social networks that were larger, contained fewer smokers, and involved fewer close relations with smokers.
Anyone in the United States can get free help to quit by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting SmokeFree.gov.
UW-CTRI is a nationally recognized research center founded in 1992 and committed to determining the nature of tobacco dependence and developing evidence-based treatments to assist smokers. UW-CTRI is part of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. For more information, visit ctri.wisc.edu.