Do you ever wonder why smoking support groups, Nicotine Anonymous, and online communities like BecomeAnEx.org exist? Smoking tends to be an individual activity, so wouldn’t quitting be an individual process as well? Research seems to suggest that stopping smoking is more social than many might think. Studies find that smokers are significantly more likely to stop smoking in groups where they engage in supportive behavior. Receiving positive affirmation and encouragement while sharing such a challenging experience can be just enough to help an individual stay on track.
Social connections seem to have an impact on smoking behavior even before a person seeks treatment. A large study published in 2008 in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people tend to stop smoking in groups determined by their social network (cluster graph below). The authors found that if a friend stopped smoking, a smoker was 36% more likely to stop themselves. If a spouse stopped smoking, this number rose to 67%!
While asking for help can be difficult at times, seeking support from others can greatly enhance recovery from tobacco. If you don’t have a support group in your area it might help to create your own. Let your friends and loved ones know that you are stopping, and let them know how they can help.
Stopping smoking doesn’t need to be an individual activity. Consider connecting with a group in your area or joining an online community through becomeanex.org to reinforce your motivation to live a healthier, smoke-free life. Let the people who care for you know what and how you’re doing. By being open and sharing with others you can strengthen your own road to recovery, and who knows, you might just help someone else along the way.
Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and James H. Fowler, Ph.D. N Engl J Med 2008; 358:2249-2258