Quit Smoking with Social Networks

New research has shown that you’re more likely to quit smoking if people in your social network are also trying to give up the habit at the same time.

Researchers, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler analysed changes in smoking behaviour from 1971 to 2003 in a large social network of 12,067 densely interconnected people.

The pair previously conducted research into how obesity is contagious in social networks. Their new research found that the closer relationships are likely to have more influence when one person is trying to quit smoking.

Generally, the researchers found, the closer the relationship between contacts, the greater the influence when one person quit smoking. When one spouse quit, for example, the other spouse’s chances of continuing to smoke decreased by 67 percent. Among friends, the effect was 36 percent. Among co-workers in small firms, 34 percent. Among siblings, the effect was 25 percent. Neighbors did not seem to be influenced by one another’s smoking habits.

So what could this mean if you run your own social network, forum or community blog? If you have a clear aim of something you’d like to accomplish, then a combination of shared goals and peer pressure within closely connected groups could help you achieve your goals.

Surprisingly, people quit roughly in tandem, with whole groups becoming nonsmokers. Those who continued to smoke, meanwhile, formed their own “cliques” that, over time, shifted from the center of the social network to the periphery.

If you have a larger site, then setting up smaller sub groups could help build closer relationships between people. For example, if you run an environmental blog or community site then you could focus your energy on actionable and achievable goals, like recycling. In theory, small closely connected groups will result in behavioural changes. Small groups working together on your site could then influence their own family members and house-mates to change their own recycling behaviour.

Of course there have been large-scale anti-smoking campaigns and these may have also contributed to the decline in the number of smokers. The report also indicates that education might also play a factor in reducing the number of smokers. Focusing too much on one particular outcome might also alienate people and force them to form their own sub-groups.

Those who continued to smoke, meanwhile, formed their own “cliques” that, over time, shifted from the center of the social network to the periphery.

Mark Granovetter’s study looked at the strength of weak ties, but what examples can you think of where close networks are more important than networks with lots of weak ties? Leave your opinions below.

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9 Readers have left their thoughts

  1. After reading the title, I was confused and my perception was, it is not possible. After reading the article, I cam to conclusion, Everything is possible by these social media and social media sites. Thanks for your contribution to a non-smoking world.

  2. It is either difficult for me to quit social networking and smoking. Perhaps there will be many more groups and networks who can do the magic but I am not one of them.

  3. Why don’t you? I think social media sites are great for helping such people(I am talking about you). You should browse such groups whose members help each other to quit smoking.

  4. for the same purpose, i am about to start a blog. believe me I am a chain smoker and internet marketing make it worse so I think only internet make it possible for me to diminish it.

  5. Mark, what I think it boils down to is that it is important to have your attention on something other than smoking. If you are in the middle of an interesting conversation with someone or you just found something that is really interesting to read/view online, then it’s a whole lot less likely that you will be obsessing about cigarettes.
    So a big key: find something that you are passionate about and then do a lot of it the first couple of weeks after you stop smoking.

  6. I think this is about our priorities and positive behavior towards our life. I smoke and smoke a lot. 5 years ago my GF asked me to quit smoking so I did then after an year, she quits me and I started again. Anyways nice post.

  7. What an interesting post, at first i was a little confused and apprehensive about the title, maybe social networking could be a good support system to help smokers to quit, but when they are in an actual social situation like the pub, how would it help then?

  8. Of course that all is easier with somebody and to stop smoking. Smoking is not in fashion and I do not understand people who live with the fact that they are dependent on a vice. They are really ordinary weakling without solid character.

  9. I think there is potential in using social networking sites to help people quiting smoking, but i think like any smoking-help service, it mainly is down to the indivuals will-power and character.