May 25, 2008


Failure to Kick Smoking Habit May Put a Drag on Social Life: A new study tracking health habits in a large social network over 30 years shows that people who smoke are on a track for social isolation. (Nikhil Swaminathan, 5/22/08, Scientific American)

Smokers who fail to kick the habit are not only hurting their bodies but may also be missing a chance to make new friends or, in some cases, keep old ones, according to new research.

Researchers report in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that an analysis of more than 12,000 smokers (and their friends, families and colleagues) over a 30-year period shows that attempting to quit smoking can serve as a people magnet by becoming a phenomenon among social groups, like a gaggle of college students or co-workers at a small firm.

According to the study, quitting often involves networks of people who spread the word (and behavior) to other cliques with whom they interact. "In a deep way, there's an association between you quitting and the quitting of people that are two to three degrees away from you," says study co-author Nicholas Christakis, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. "People you don't know personally, their actions ripple through the network and affect you."

Christakis says the effect triggers "quitting cascades" analogous to lights going out down the line on a power grid until ultimately it goes dark. The parts of the grid that are not affected by the loss of power, as in an actual blackout, are usually those on the fringes of the web—in a quitting cascade, it is those who continue to smoke.

...or is that why they smoked to begin with? Does explain why lawmakers want menthols to be cheaper.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 25, 2008 7:59 AM

I wonder what sort of correlation you'd get between people who smoke and people who have multiple tattoos and piercings. Maybe it's just part of how a person treats themselves, and how they value the short-term perceived benefits over the long-term liabilities.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 26, 2008 9:52 PM