I’m down the local with a group of mates I’ve known since secondary school. It’s cold, windy and raining yet one or more of our group will invariably disappear outside to light up. Why in such conditions, I am left wondering, do they pursue cancer so tenaciously?
Well, whether they know it or not, according to research conducted by Eveline Vincke from Belgium’s Ghent University, those guys are far more likely to get lucky by the end of the night. Strict rules have been implimented to weed out the popular cultural image, that smoking is ‘cool’. However, Vincke suggests that the allure of the cigarette-smoking rebel is still strong, despite society repeatedly being warned about the numerous health implications. Indeed it is thought that the appeal of the habits is linked to the risk we have come to associate with them. As such, constant badgering by the government begging us to keep away from tobacco may not just be ineffective but also entirely counter productive.
During the study, 239 Belgian women aged 17 to 30 were shown 10 different profiles detailing the lifestyle choices of young men. The descriptions included lists of hobbies such as sports or sunbathing alongside how often the men smoked or drank. Participants were then asked to rate how attractive they would find the individual as long or short-term partners. Finally they were asked if they thought the man would agree with statements such as: “Sex without love is OK”.
According to the results, the men who undertake more risky behavior are perceived to be more sexually open and an attractive prospect for a one-night stand. And these ‘bad boys’ seem to know it. Vincke described smoking as part of a short term mating strategy
Furthermore it is thought that some engage in so-called social smoking to enhance their sexual appeal and decrease the likelihood of them going home alone. Most of us have a friend who will only smoke under these social conditions. This is quite ironic when you consider that men with erectile dysfunction are twice as likely to be former smokers.
The second part of the study questioned men regarding their smoking and drinking routines and seemed to confirm what women perceive. Of the 171 male interviewees, those who often undertook such activities were found to be more open about sex and generally looking for a short-term encounter. So why does putting pleasure before peril catch a woman’s eye?
There have been hundreds of studies aiming to dissect human relationship behaviour. One theory is that a short-term fling is centered on genetic quality, which may be augmented by taking risks. In contrast, the search for a more permanent partner places more emphasis on a willingness to care and protect for children.
Such inclinations result in women favoring non-smokers and moderate-to-non-drinkers as long-term partners. So, you could argue that in the end, the good guy always comes out on top. We are saturated with information about the negative health effects of smoking, through television ads, websites, even on the packets themselves; it is a wonder why so many people continue to smoke. Whichever way this research is interpreted, it is apparent that anti-smoking campaigns focusing upon health consequences may actually be barking up the wrong tree.
Highlighting dangers may have inadvertently been glamorising smoking so perhaps such campaigns should change tact. Personally, watching my mates shivering and trying to light up a cigarette in the wind and rain is more than enough of a deterrent. I can’t imagine it’s terribly sexy either.