Social networks help smokers quit: new research

New Scientist reports on new research at the Harvard Medical School which suggests that targeting anti-smoking campaigns at social networks, rather than individuals, is a more effective way to reduce smoking rates.

Quit Smoking Sign

This research re-inforces the surprising power of social networks to strongly influence individual behaviour and suggests that:

"Whole groups of smokers are quitting at once, it's not just isolated individuals blinking out, it's whole interconnected groups simultaneously dropping out…… pressures could drive deeper cuts in smoking rates, as smokers find they know fewer and fewer people who smoke and eventually quit”.

To read the New Scientist article

To read the original research paper:
The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network
by Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and James H. Fowler, Ph.D.

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This looks good - will look at it closely over the weekend.

I remember an article showing that the single most useful technique for giving up smoking is a buddy (not necessarily a friend) who is also trying to give up. Both immediate and long term effects were huge.

The author was the same guy who thought up Group Think. I momentarily forget his name.


I can only agree with this point - social networks tend to expend their own cultures at micro levels within specific social/community groups of peers! (feeding into the macro levels)

It is often the CULTURAL problem that leads to the 'emergence' or propagation of habits to other agents in community systems.

Jo - I strongly agree with your point too - a buddy is someone who is perceived to belong to some other middle or outer social ring and hence they have stronger change FOR forces acting on the risk agent to mitigate this negative behavior!

In Australia - the new RUDD government has an agenda to implement a tax on so called 'alcopops' which are mixed beverages targeted through the manipulative traits of 'sensational transference' to portray a 'cool' and 'new-age' form of drinking spirits (little do these innocent and naive teenagers know that the alcohol content is so STRONG and hence the increased concerns on binge drinking rising rapidly amongst our youth)

I dont think the tax is effective - because it encourages them seeking substitutes which can be MORE HARMFUL THAN ALCOHOL (such as illicit drugs)

I - personally - STRONGLY believe a massive cultural change is required to trigger the INCREMENTAL change in mindsets and attitudes amongst our youths!

They need to get involved in productive fun activities instead of binge drinking (facebook and myspace further glorify binge drinking through these so called 'appreciation' groups and ALOT of photos that get posted represent drunk and often very uncivilized behaviour)

Of course - youths are YOUNG and want to have FUN - but there are better ways of doing so!

EDUCATION together with TARGETED CHANGE INITIATIVES by leveraging the power of 'influencers' in social networks to CREATE CULTURAL CHANGE is ESSENTIAL!!

Thanks Ken - excellent - as always!

- thealphaswarmer|mAx

As a smoker, who really doesn't want to live for ever, I find the intolerance of smokers to be a joke.

Stand in your garage with your car running, shut the garage door.. within a short time you will be dead.

If you stand in the same garage with me smoking, how long before you die?

Lets get some perspective here.

My car driving has a higher chance of killing you, than my smoking. My flight pollution causes far more damage than my cigarette smoke, my purchasing of goods, which have travelled half way round the world, is causing pollution issues which far outweigh my cigarette smoke, but guess what... people don't care about that. But they do care my cigarettes may cause an issue. Funny how the ego makes some things justifiable in one's own behaviour but not from other people.

In the UK, child asthma studies show, very high levels of child asthma rates, not caused by smoking parents, but by houses along congested roads.

Smoking kills people, so what. Cars kill far more people and exponentially far more children, or is that also so what?

Let's try social networking to get people to get out of the real killing machines- cars and planes.

I smoke, I drive, I fly, I don't care. But the constant harping at smokers is in reality just blind bigotry and self serving tripe

Thanks for your comment - I was not getting at smokers just reporting on the power of social networks to influence individual behavior.

You do have a point though - smoking is the easy target - what about obesity in the US and binge drinking culture in the UK?

If you go to Europe particularly Italy, Spain and Holland smoking is seen in a totally diferent social light (pardon the pun)

Best Regards


Agreed with the above comments - its about self tolerance, self confidence. For example - if you were a past smoker and just so happen to have an inner circle of friends who smoke (socially or to relieve perceived stress), it doesnt necessarily mean you have to be hostile about that. You could be friendly and pass a one liner suggestion to perhaps try certain programs or new attitudes to distract themselves from smoking. This is about idea facilitation - not undermining their own lives. The same will apply for drinking as it comes into question that just because SOMEONE doesn't drink much or at all - it doesn't mean someone else shouldn't around them!

Tolerance = ascendancy = self control

- thealphaswarmer| mAx

So, we're going to begin looking towards Social Media as a cure for everything? And where are they getting these statistics from?... How would anyone know if anyone has "stopped smoking" over the internet?


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