6 findings on SA smokers

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Some local smokers think the best cigarette is the one they have while having a drink and socialising; others prefer their first of the day. But even more South Africans want cigarettes stamped out entirely.

The results of the third South African Smoking Survey are out.

The Nicorette South African Smoking Survey 2011, conducted in association with Health24.com, has again shed significant light on South Africans’ smoking habits -- and on smokers' and non-smokers’ attitudes towards the habit.

The survey, conducted with over 8000 Health24 readers, gives in-depth insight into how smoking trends have changed, towards lower tolerance towards the habit by both smokers and non-smokers -- likely as a direct result of tough economic times, stricter smoking legislation and concerns around health.

Some of the survey’s key findings:

Why smokers do it
More than half (55%) of the respondents answered this question with a simple: “because I enjoy it.” Others (40%) admitted to the power of the social ritual, and that they continued to smoke because it was all part of socialising, especially socialising with alcohol. Other reasons given were that that it’s “cool” and a sign of rebellion, because of peer pressure or a partner smoking, and to relieve stress.

The most “satisfying” smoke
Respondents found smoking to be most satisfying when combined with alcohol (34%) , or when it was the first "wake me up" cigarette in the morning (33%). A quarter of smokers found their most potent cigarettes were those used to alleviate stress (25%). For 4% of smokers, their most enjoyable cigarette was after having sex.

Just a social smoker: are you counting every smoke?
Of all participants, 41% were smokers, and of these most (42%) confessed to being regular smokers who smoked 11 to 20 cigarettes per day. Interestingly, about a quarter of people who filled out the survey were ex-smokers.

Tobacco and the impressionable young
Peer pressure remains the primary underlying factor that gets smokers started: 79% say they picked up the habit before the age of 20. Taking up smoking after this easily influenced period becomes less likely, with only 1.6% starting smoking at 30 years or older.

Desperate to stub out the habit
An overwhelming 75% of smokers have tried to quit over the last year, indicating a high degree of dissonance amongst smokers.

And while mind over matter, coupled with the desire to stop smoking is the first step, (76% of those attempting to quit relied on willpower to stop smoking), most (over 65%) admitted to failing in their attempts over the previous year – though 25% are still trying.

After sheer willpower, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) was the next smoking cessation option for quitters, with over 22% relying on NRT and additional assistance to kick the habit.

Tobacco loses in the popularity stakes
Stricter legislation from government and a general shift in attitudes towards smoking revealed an overwhelmingly negative outlook on smoking: 72% of participants having become more negative towards smoking in the past 12 months, while those who still maintained their contentment for the habit were at a low 3%.

Compared to the first Smoking Survey conducted in 2009, this shows that attitudes towards tobacco are steadily becoming less and less tolerant -- among smokers and non-smokers alike.

- Compiled by Olivia Rose-Innes, Health24, February 2012 

Read more: The war on cigarettes

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