Don't class yourself as a smoker, but have one on every night out? Áine Kenny addresses the trend of so-called 'social smoking'.
I am not a smoker and I never will be.
 
Has anyone else noticed the recent resurgence of smoking, especially among young people? Often outside bus stops you can spot a student having a quiet cigarette, or the smokers huddled together outside buildings on campus for warmth. What has caused this recent trend?
 
I think the most common form of smoking among young adults nowadays is so-called “social smoking”. This is when people say “oh, I don’t smoke… except for when I’m out.”
 
For me personally, I don’t understand this whole concept. If you’ve a lit cigarette in your hand and are puffing away like Thomas the Tank Engine in the smoking area of a nightclub every Thursday night, why not admit to the fact you’re a smoker? And in fairness, I am not trying to judge people who socially smoke. It can be hard to forge friendships in college, and sometimes people bond over a cigarette on a night out, and it becomes a habit.
 
I just think it is interesting to see how people who do smoke on nights out do not identify as smokers. What this implies is that smoking isn’t becoming more acceptable, in fact, possibly even less, as now people are using the excuse of being drunk to explain why they smoke.
 
I think it is different for people who have had a family member die due to a smoking related illness. People who have never seen a loved one struggling to breath at every moment probably don’t see the harm of having a few rollies on a night out.
 
My Grandad smoked nearly every day since he was about 12. Obviously, it was different back in those days, they thought smoking had health benefits, which seems like absolute madness now. When I was younger, Grandad wasn’t in bad health. I mean he had the usual smokers cough, asthma and the like, but that is part of the package of being a life-long smoker.
 
But when I hit my teens Grandad got very ill. He had emphysema, which is a lung disease that causes the over-inflation of the alveoli, reduces the elasticity of the tissue of the lungs, and damages the bronchioles. So basically, your lungs cannot exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen by themselves anymore. Grandad lived for another five years with emphysema, which is highly unusual. He had to be on oxygen nearly 24/7 towards the end of his life.
 
But even then, he didn’t give up smoking! He used to take off his oxygen mask and have a smoke. Eventually, he became too weak to do anything, let alone hold a cigarette in his hand. If this doesn’t prove how addictive smoking is, I don’t know what will.
 
So, that’s why I don’t smoke on nights out.
 
But I am not trying to scare or shame people who do smoke. It is a personal choice for everyone, and whether we like it or not, cigarettes remain legal in Ireland, so it is well within people’s rights to smoke. And if it gives people comfort from the hardships of life or a window into a friendship, who are we to judge?
 
The smoking ban in public places is a step in the right direction to lessen smoking’s harmful effects, especially on those who don’t want to smoke. In my own college, the campus is partially smoke-free, and designated smoking shelters were put up to contain smoke to a few areas.
 
Recently, Finland announced that they are aiming to have the first “smoke-free” generation by 2030. They already have smoking bans in public spaces (and now aim to include balcony’s and gardens) and a ban on advertising. They have plans to raise the price of cigarettes to a point where shops will lose money by selling them.
 
The price of cigarettes is already immensely high in many countries. But honestly, if people want cigarettes, they will pay any price for them.
 
The only way to get people to stop smoking, or to understand the true dangers of the habit, is to see someone they know and love suffer immensely at the hands of tobacco towards the end of their life. It sounds so drastic, but out of most people I know, those who don’t smoke have seen someone become ill and/or die due to tobacco addiction. Not a very pleasant thought, but it’s what I’ve come to realise.