Ways to Tell If Someone Smokes

Some people hide their habit of smoking quite well.
Some people hide their habit of smoking quite well. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Smoking, like many habits, can be elevated to an obsession. However, it can often be quite difficult to identify a smoker. Some cigarette smokers are candid about their use, while others are more guarded about their habit. It can be important to know who in your life is smoking, as you may have a chance to persuade them to abandon an unhealthy habit. As of April 2011, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cigarette smoking accounts for approximately 443,000 deaths -- nearly one of every five deaths -- each year in the United States.

Physical Symptoms

A quick if imperfect way to find out if someone is smoking is by observing their physical appearance. Long-time smokers have facial wrinkles, and their skin appears grayish in color. Smoking may cause a breakdown in collagen, a key protein that keeps skin elastic. Ironically, in the words of professor Antony Young, "teenagers often start smoking in the hope of appearing more mature but it probably never occurs to them by middle age they will really start to look older than their age." In addition to a person's face, their teeth and fingertips can be a giveaway, as a yellowish color to either area can indicate prolonged smoking.

The Smell Test

It's also useful to trust your nose when identifying a potential smoker, as their hair, clothes, car and furniture can contain the odor of old smoke. Areas they frequent -- living room, bathroom, bedroom, workplace -- are good places to investigate, as the scent of stale smoke lingers for quite a while.

Depression Symptoms

Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to suffer from depression. Certain smokers may use their habit to combat specific life stressors, but an April 2010 study linked depression and smoking directly, finding that adults aged 20 and over with depression were more likely to be cigarette smokers than those without depression. A smoker who is suffering from depression may appear fatigued or have trouble focusing. They may also project a low self-esteem, with feelings of sadness and worthlessness.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If someone is trying to quit smoking or has not smoked in a while, they may show signs of withdrawal. Withdrawal can manifest itself in the form of depression symptoms, such as sadness and fatigue, but it's also important to watch for someone who shows signs of irritability and an increased appetite. Additionally, a smoker going through withdrawal will be restless, which manifests as an inability to sit still or focus on one thing for a long period.

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