Smoking but not addicted

I’m trying to find some information on this without success. Thanks for any pointers or help.

Just as you aren’t addicted to alcohol just because you drink I am assume it is possible to be a smoker without being addicted. I have several friends who only smoke very occasionally in social situations and frequently go very long periods without smoking or urges. Despite a habit of more than a pack per day, my mom was always able to stop smoking for long periods (pregnancies mostly) without any trouble at all and when she decided to stop she just stopped. No difficulties, no urges, no withdrawal symptoms.

So, for example, I can find a statistic that there are 110 million regular drinkers in the United States and 17 million alcoholics.

Is is possible to present a similar statistic for smoking?

Nicotine is a lot more addictive than alcohol. I was, what you might call a casual smoker in high school and college, and found it quite easy to quit “regular” smoking, but I had a bitch of a time not smoking when out for a few drinks, etc.

That last habitual part of smoking was more difficult to get over than the days at a time I could go without one.

Where am I going with this? I really don’t know. There certainly are casual, or social smokers out there. It’s a slippery slope to go down though. The vast majority of people become addicted, unlike alcohol.

Yeah, I don’t mean to suggest it isn’t a high number but is it 100%? If not, what is it?

I’m assuming there are studies of this stuff (for example I have found that 2.5% of smokers successfully quit each year but I’m not even clear if that is 2.5% of smokers or 2.5% of smokers who try to quit) but my Google-fu is failing me because everything just leads back to “how to quit smoking” sites which seem to assume you’re addicted if a cigarette has ever touched your lips.

I suppose there is also the split between psychological and physical addiction. One happening without the other, etc.

It’s probably along the lines of 45 million smokers, 44.5 million of them addicted.

I too have known occasional smokers, and a few who have been able to quit with minimal effort. A small percentage of the population is much less prone than average to nicotine addiction. But the overwhelming majority of people who smoke are significantly addicted.

Alcohol’s a different animal. Yes, people can get habituated to it and some are perhaps helpless to resist it, but the majority who use it do not have a compulsion to do so.

So while most drinkers are not alcoholics, almost all smokers are nicotine addicts.

I’m a casual smoker. A pipe or cigar once a week max; a cigarrette here and there if I get really stressed or I am out drinking. Never more than two smokes a week though and usually less than that. I’ve never been addicted to anything though, I seem to be able to start and stop habits at will.

I can vouch for the existence of non-addicted smokers. Personally, I probably fire up my pipe 5-6 days per year, and I average about 2 cigars per year. If I forget my pipe on vacation, it’s no big deal (come to think of it, I forgot it the last two times – I haven’t smoked anything in at least 6 months).

I think that’s very rare, though – and I would guess it’s even rarer for people who smoked a great deal at some point in their lives (I didn’t).

I would guess that if you define “smoker” as someone who averages at least one cigarette per day, then the difference between the number of smokers and the number of addicts is statistically insignificant.

I don’t know about statistics, but NajaHusband and I occasionally smoke cigarettes. We’ll smoke through a pack or two, sometimes for many months at a stretch. Eventually I’ll run out and forget to buy another pack and it might be six months or a year before I smoke again. I don’t crave them in between bouts. My mom used to be the same as yours, quitting for pregnancies without problems doing so, but now she smokes a pack or two a day like a chimney and it’s pretty gross. I imagine “sporadic” smoking would eventually become habitual if we let it, but we don’t and don’t seem to have problems feeling hooked even when we are smoking.

Can anybody point to anything other than personal opinion/experience? That’s what I need if possible (not that I mind sharing stories).

Smoking isn’t instantly addictive since most non-smokers I have asked have tried it at least once (including myself) so what is the threshhold? Somebody must have studied this stuff more rigorously but I can’t find it (online; I don’t currently have easy access to the good literature searching tools).

If it is the case that the correlation between regular nicotine consumption and addiction is essentially 100% are there other drugs in this category? I know a lot of people who at one point or another regularly and casually used cocaine and stopped without any difficulty.

I read an article years ago that stated that smoking can be instantly addictive. Obviously this wouldn’t apply to everybody, but it appears to be plausible in a lot of cases.

Crack is said to be instantly addictive for virtually all who try it.

You might find some helpful information in this article published by the CDC.

It’s old, but it does seem to have some insight (at least related to this specific group of smokers), and offers resources from which they gathered their information, which may give you some clues as to where to hunt for more updated info.

I started smoking at college 8 months after smoking weed most nights after I arrived.
It was mentioned to me that the ‘head rush’ could also be got from cigarettes.

Now bare in mind I was sharing with 5 people, communal area, all paid in for the weed, time on the toke was short but effective. It did the job.
I did notice the nicotine stain on my fingers.

Walking back home one day I popped into the cornershop and purchased a packet of Silk Cut … the brand used for the rollies. Lit it up, puffed away, and LOLZ was there a head rush.
From that point on it was game-over, no further headrushes just a 20 a day BH habit <addiction> which I carried over into my working life.
If the guy hadn’t mentioned it I probably wouldn’t have started … c’est le vie.
It is the evil weed afterall … more so then Weed in my book.

Shayna, thanks very much! That is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. It is a narrow group (I’m now wondering if there are studies showing differentials in addiction rate between genders/race/etc.) but suggests and overall addiction rate (using their 4 indicators) of about 80%.

It seems to indicate that it is still surprisingly addictive at about 50% for people who smoke less than 6 cigarettes a day and immediately shooting up into the 80% range for anything more frequent.

So for casual smokers it is something like 50% and for everybody else it is something like 85%-88%. Not 100% but still really high.

Thanks again Shayna.

You’re welcome! And welcome back, too! You were MIA there for a couple of years – good to see you back.

Idle curiosity, obviously you don’t have to answer, but are you trying to convince someone to quit before they feel they’ve become addicted?

I found another article that could contain some info in relation to your question. The publication Nicotine Addiction in Britain, by the Royal College of Physicians says, “A small proportion of smokers, approximately 5%, do not appear to be addicted to nicotine,” which puts the percentage of addicted smokers much higher than the 80-88% from the previous study.

Following the link, “Is nicotine a drug of addiction?” we find: [


No, not trying to convince anybody of anything (personally, while I wouldn’t recommend it, if you’re an adult and want to smoke more power to you).

On another message board a list of statistics about addiction was presented and it was in the form of “X alcoholics” “Y sex addicts” “G meth addicts” “75 million smokers.” And while I assumed that a very large percentage of that 75 million would be addicted smokers I just got anal about it being an apples to oranges kind of thing and wondered what the proper listing would be.

Sounds like (assuming casual and non-casual is the same split as the first study you linked) it would be about 59 million.

Ah, fighting ignorance elsewhere. I like it! Hope you’re successful in making your point. :slight_smile:

No difficulties? No urges? Then why did she “always” go back to a pack a day habit on one of the biggest known causes of cancer and heart disease? It may have looked like she had no problems with stopping, but if she always returned to the habit, that speaks for itself.

I say that as a person who, like Mark Twain, has quit smoking thousands of times. The last cigarette I had was March 5. I’ve been wanting to have one today just to prove to myself that “I can smoke just one.” Thanks for posting and helping to talk me out of it.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t occasional smokers. I just don’t think that your mother is one. I don’t think I am either. I am either a smoker or a non-smoker.

I can’t find the cite at the moment, but I do recall, from some of my conferences sponsored by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, that only about 4% of smokers manage to be ‘social smokers’, lighting up 3-5 times a month only, usually while out at bars.

The remaining 96% are addicted both psychologically and physiologically.

Of course, such statistics make many people say “I like those odds!!”

I seem to recall reading about a study or studies that there are a small number of people, all or mostly white who have a varient of a normal gene that makes smoking non-addictive or only slightly addictive to them. < googles > This may be related. Note the 1% number for people with double null alleles.

I think there are some statistics on this in the book “The Tipping Point” I will try to find my copy and see what studies it cites.

Gimme five, Girl! My quit date was March 26th. Previous long quit for me was 20 days. I sure do hope this one sticks. I’m a happier, healthier person without the smokes.

I’ve been on some long car trips, hit some bars and so far not one puff.

I have heard of people who can smoke and not become addicted, but I’ve yet to meet one. Congrats to them, but I’m not one of them.