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Drugs & Health Blog

Social Smoking: Just as Bad as Regular Smoking

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

Many people justify smoking one or two cigarettes once in a while—known as social smoking—by thinking occasional smoking won’t damage their health as much as smoking every day. Unfortunately, smoking fewer cigarettes does not reduce the risk of smoking-related health problems.

Physical Health

With occasional smoking, you still have several health risks, like:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung and other cancers
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Slower recovery from torn cartilage and other injuries

Brain Health

It’s not just the body—the brain suffers as well. A 2011 study shows that even occasional smoking affects memory. Northumbria University in the United Kingdom gave a memory test to college students who smoked either occasionally, regularly, or not at all. Results showed that both occasional and regular smokers performed much worse than nonsmokers on this task. In fact, social smokers performed just as badly as regular smokers.

Researchers involved in the study concluded that smoking damages memory no matter how often you do it. And decline in smoking-related memory has been linked with changes in the brain, such as brain shrinkage. That can’t be good.

Regain Your Memory

Fortunately, the damage doesn’t have to be permanent. The psychologists who researched how smoking affects memory published another study last year showing that quitting smoking can actually improve memory, restoring everyday memory to nearly the same level as that of people who don’t smoke.

For this study, participants were taken on a tour of a university campus and asked to remember a series of predetermined tasks at specific locations. While current smokers remembered 59% of tasks, people who had given up smoking remembered 74% of their required tasks. Those who had never smoked remembered 81% of tasks.

What Do You Think?

Does knowing that occasional cigarette smoking has the same brain and physical health effects as regular smoking make you think twice before lighting up? If you smoke now, have you found it harder to remember everyday tasks or errands than before you started smoking?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


drugs are terrible. i have a familly member who smokes, she also does weed. its heart breaking. i hate it.

[commercial link removed, per guidelines] I see public smoking is much bad, sometimes u become inspiration for kids and for those who don't smoke. And sometimes you make them smoke passively.

I really appreciate this post. I think this is among the most important information for me. And i'm glad reading your article.

Drugs addiction really a very bad habit. I hate this. In my family one person use drink wine & i don't like it.I will keep updated with the same.

I have met many "social smokers" who have said that smoking is hardly affecting their health and that being a social smoker isn't that bad for them. One of the biggest effects being a social smoker can have, is that you may become a much heavier smoker. A friend of mine started smoking socially, maybe one or two cigarettes every couple of days. Now she smokes more and more every time I see her; the last time I saw her she was up to around ten cigarettes a day. I think that so many people view "social smoking" as a safe option, they think of it as being no different than having a candy bar every once in awhile even when you know they're bad for you. Too many people are mistaken in thinking the risks and adverse health effects from smoking are limited to those who would be considered "heavy smokers."

smoking is bad.did you know that it is the leading cause of heart desease and cancer.

I agree that smoking is a bad habit. I know multiple people who smoke and after reading this article I can give them reasons to quit.

i think it is a good influence on people who smoke so they know what it does to their body.

i personally think smoking is bad. this article is very informative about how bad smoking is. cigarrettes and every other drug is bad.

we are 12 now if we start occasional smoking we will be at the same risk as daily smokers. Then if we smoke to many occasionally then we could become daily smokers too.

i agree with this entry and drugs are bad. why would you want to do something that will shorten your life.

I found this article to be quite informative, and i believe everyone should be aware of the consaquences of tobacco use. SMOKING KILLS!!!

This article is a good way to show people how bad smoking is, and what consequences it can cause you. I can't believe someone would sacrifice everything they have just to smoke. It's horrid.

i think it is a good influence on people who smoke so they know what it does to their body.This was such a good post, Thanks for sharing

this was not a good post it was sucky as

I have social smoked for about 2 years and I can honestly say my health is fine. I play sport, I can concentrate on my work and studies and I don't ever get cravings. I don't think it's as bad as heavy smoking although I do see the risk if you become a heavy smoker. I think only some people can be classed as social smokers. I haven't had a smoke in over 2 weeks and seem to cope well.

most dangerous diseases is to cure is drugs addiction... iI hate it..
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I hate smokers because its shows easy way for cancer

I hate smokers Its too bad for health.........
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Thanks for sharing, keep sharing.

Really enjoyed this article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

I appreciate the sense that comes out from this post. Thank you!

Great! thank you for this article.The things mentioned on this article are perfect.

It’s really important to visit this site.

Very nice, Great post.

Wow! You guys do great work. Thanks for all that you do for those in need.

Thank you for sharing this site.

well i guess there no point in cutting back then

"Unfortunately, smoking fewer cigarettes does not reduce the risk of smoking-related health problems."

you know im pretty sure it definitely does

How can I get a copy of this poster.....would love to have one for my middle school classroom.

@criswell Wish we could help you get a copy of the photo used in this post for your classroom, but it is a stock photo, not a poster. Great idea to make a poster illustrating the brain impacts of smoking like this, though! Could see it perhaps being a student project.

First it is bad at say its horrible but I don't hate smokers seriously what if your mother or father or brother or sister smoked would you hate them NO! Its because its a fact of life for some reason I sadly know 11 and 12 year olds who smoke I do think it should stop like officially as in people need to STOP MAKING THE THING! But don't hate its like saying to someone I hate you for eating Ice cream! So smokers PLEASEEE stop and people stop being haters
Smoking causes a multitude of diseases. Diseases are caused by smoking because tobacco products contain cancer-causing and disease-casing ingredients. The severity of the illness is directly related to the length of time smoking and the products used in smoking. Two diseases caused by smoking are tar lungs and smoker's cough. When you smoke, tar accumulates in your lungs. The lungs, through minute hair-like filaments called cilia, will remove tar. But if tar accumulation is too much, this will damage the lungs leading to tar lungs. The body will now look for other ways to remove tar and that is through coughing. This is the beginning of smoker's. Article source :[link removed per guidelines]
my mom smokes. i have told her what it does to your body. when i was 9 years old we were on the way home from school. she asked me what we learned at school. i told her we learned what cigarettes are made of and what your lungs look like when you smoke. she ignored me. me and my mom havn`t really bonded or got along since then. shes dating a guy right now who smokes. he quit for her sake. they love eachother dearly but he is thinking of dumping her if she does not quit!!!!!
Eating anything with chemicals in it increases your risk of cancers, which is anything in Wal-Mart or in the center isle of any grocery store. Deodorant/antiperspirant increases your chance of cancer. Driving fast or at all increases your chances of getting into a major car wreck and dying. Living in the city and breathing the air is extremely toxic and you could develop asthma or other risky health issues. All and all anything and everything is risky. If you smoke a cigarette every once and a while its not going to be any worse than just living in toxic America, next to a refinery or even a strawberry field that isn't organic. I mean even the water in most rivers is extremely poisonous because were dirty slobs. Oh yah, depending on your age Advil, Ibuprofen and aspirin are extremely dangerous to take and could result in death. But smoking everyday, full time is really dumb and you shouldn't do it, especially now with the fire safe additive. I was curious on what one would say to this question just to realize now its a really stupid question to ask if you already know the answer. I know too much stuff, why did I just waste my time? :-(
Old enough to remember hearing EVERY cigarette you smoked took seven minutes off your life. There's no way 2 cigs a day is the same as a pack and a half of same. I used to smoke for 36 years, so I actually know what I'm talking about. With that being said, cigarettes are made to be incredibly addictive, and you're better off vaping than smoking, especially with zero nicotine if you are not already smoking. But the All or Nothing reasoning in this article? Dead wrong.