Study: Want More Friends? Quit Smoking


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 smoking.

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 an increase 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.

Contact: Chris Hollenback 608-417-9047 or ch3@medicine.wisc.edu

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