Smoking: A Gateway to Social Inclusion or Gateway to Death?


Living within an inevitably judgmental society in no way comes with ease and may result in negative implications. It is incredibly normal to yearn for social inclusion and acceptance, however, at what cost? Are people sincerely willing to sacrifice their well-being to not feel left out by the group, or is there more to the habit than just the social benefits of it? Nevertheless, social satisfaction should never come at the cost of one’s physical and mental well-being. Smoking is now seen to be a rather common habit practised by many individuals that allows for social inclusion and acceptance.

When questioned, many IE students justify their smoking habits as a social factor. An anonymous student claimed, “All my friends were smoking so I tried it one day and liked it. I never did it because of anxiety, but I guess I would smoke out of social anxiety when I would go out. Anyway, I quit because I felt like my lungs were dying.” Admirably, when this student felt her health was starting to descend due to her social habits, she decided to give smoking up. Others may not notice their health decaying due to smoking, however, it is crucial not to ignore any symptoms if one begins to feel unwell.

Eva Smolokovskaya, a second-year BBSS student describes her views as a former smoker, “I initially started smoking when I was 13 and I think mainly it was because of social pressure. I was the youngest in every room in middle/high school. So, when someone offered me a smoke I took it as an opportunity to seem ‘cooler’/’older’, but I didn’t start smoking because I had anxiety. After smoking for a few years it became a coping mechanism for anxiety. I quit, finally almost two months ago more consciously because it started to gain more cons than pros for me. 90% of my friends are either non-constant smokers or never smoked. Also, I’ve been having a chronic cough for the last 6 months but my last straw was when I physically saw my fingers turn yellow. That’s when all the ‘smoking kills’ and ‘it’s bad for you’ mantras started to feel physically real to me. But yeah, the best decision of my life. Anyone who wants to quit smoking, it´s an awesome ego boost to your willpower.”

In both situations, both students decided to quit when smoking began disrupting their health. Moreover, although they began smoking primarily for social purposes, they acquired a limit, and every individual should as well. Surely, the temporary satisfactions that smoking provides may feel as a necessity during the current moment, but prospectively, it never is, especially if it is solely committed as a social habit.

Others may be completely aware of the negative health implications but acquire difficulty in quitting. An anonymous student said, “I developed my smoking habit last year when I was thrown into a new environment and had to live on my own for the first time. I am a person who gets stressed and needs distractions, so I turned to vapes, and from vapes to the occasional ciggie outside of the club, and then I bought my first pack. So, I started smoking every day but without repercussions: I started coughing more and I have literally no motivation to work out. Whatever people say, it is still hard to quit, because you have gotten so used to it.” Unfortunately, social pressure does not benefit both sides of the spectrum. Although knowingly so, smoking can be addictive due to its nicotine contents, most find it awfully difficult to quit. 

Furthermore, others smoke for reasons much greater than simply just the social aspects. An anonymous student stated, “My dad is a smoker. His job is incredibly stressful and demanding and smoking is his outlet from it all, and this is why I smoke, I guess. It’s nice to take a quick break from reality and allow yourself a few minutes from your day simply just to re-arrange and re-collect all your thoughts and feelings. I do smoke socially as well, but it’s definitely not the main reason why.” It appears that others find smoking as an opportunity not to connect with others, but also to disconnect as well. Although some may have a deeper outlook on why they smoke than others, it is just as possible for them to stop. It may be more difficult when there is an existing emotional attachment towards the habit. However, allowing oneself to comfort their mental well-being at the moment will only create more issues towards their physical well-being in the future.

In summary, smoking is a personal choice, and no one should allow themselves to negatively impose their opinions solely because one smokes. It is no question that smoking is bad for one’s well-being. However, some truly do find some sort of comfort in doing it, and perhaps they value that convenience more and will worry about the prospective implications later on. Ultimately, it is the smoker’s choice to weigh the pros and cons of their habit because every individual acquires a different reason for smoking and whether they decide to quit or not is something they must reflect on a personal scale.

Featured image: AdobeStock

Hana Abulkheir
Hana Abulkheir
Second year behaviour and social science student from Egypt but primarily lived abroad. Interested in mental health in well-being.

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