Quitting Smoking: Easier in Groups

Craig Stoltz Health Guide
  • A fascinating study with big implications for smokers concludes that an individual's decision to quit is influenced by members of their close social group--but also by people they don't even know. And whole groups of people with no direct relationships to each other quit simultaneously.


    If this were not published in the New England Journal of Medicine, I'd write this off as low-grade survey-of-the-day "news."


    What you need to know:


    1. This is a good, big smoking study involving 12,000 people followed for over 30 years, with their relationships plotted to the third degree (i.e., friends-of-friends-of-friends, coworkers-of-brother's-friends, etc.). Name-brand data and researchers, top-shelf publication, no conflicts of interest.

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    2. Among findings with practical implications:

    • Smoking cessation by a spouse decreased a person's chances of smoking by 67 percent
    • Cessation by a sibling decreased chances by 25 percent
    • By a friend, 36 percent
    • Among colleauges in small firms, 34%
    • Friends with more education influenced one another more than those with lesseducation.
    • These effects were not seen among neighbors in the immediate geographic area

    3. So: What does this mean for you, or the smokers in your life? One member of a social group who quits can have powerful influences across a far greater social network than you'd expect. Group quitting may be more successful, and can have profound social impacts.


    For details, The Washington Post has a good report on the smokers' social network study, and fascinating graphic.


    The trick, of course, is getting one person to quit--as any smoker knows, it's one of the toughest challenges you'll face in your life. But it's not just that the life you save may be your own. It may be a spouse, family member, or co-worker--or some stranger, far away, whom you've never met.


    Our StopSmokingConnection.com site has some of the best quit-smoking material you'll find, plus access to medical experts and regular folks who have managed to quit.

Published On: May 28, 2008