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Article | Social Smokers’ Management of Conflicted Identities

Background: Although social smoking has increased among young adults, it remains a poorly understood behaviour. We explored how young adult social smokers viewed and defined smoking, and the strategies they used to reconcile their conflicting smoker and non-smoker identities. We also examined alcohol’s role in facilitating social smoking and investigated measures that would de-couple drinking and smoking.

Methods: We conducted thirteen in-depth interviews with young adult social smokers aged between 18 and 25 and used thematic analysis to interpret the transcripts.

Results: We identified four key themes: the demarcation strategies social smokers used to avoid classifying themselves as smokers; social smoking as a tactic that ameliorates the risk of alienation; alcohol as a catalyst of social smoking, and the difficulty participants experienced in reconciling their identity as non-smokers who smoke.

Conclusions: Although social smokers regret smoking, their retrospective remorse was insufficient to promote behaviour change and environmental modifications appear more likely to promote smokefree behaviors among social smokers. Participants strongly supported extending the smokefree areas outside bars, a measure that would help decouple their alcohol-fuelled behaviors from the identity to which they aspire.

Citation: Hoek, J., Maubach, N., Stevenson, R., Gendall, P., & Edwards, R. (advance online). Social Smokers’ Management of Conflicted Identities.  Tobacco Control, online first. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050176

This research was supported by funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

See also: Media release.

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