MADISON (WKOW) -- When many smokers think about quitting they report being nervous about losing friends, especially if they hang out with a lot of smokers, according to past studies.
Some recent research out of UW Madison shows that really the opposite is true though.
The study watched smokers who smoked at least half a pack a day and were motivated to quit, over a span of three years.
"We really wanted to understand if we helped people to try and quit smoking, how would their lives change?" says Megan Piper, Associate Director of Research, UW Center for Tobacco Research & Intervention and one of the researchers of the study.
At the end of the study, the majority of people reported they actually had larger networks of friends.
"When you're no longer so tied to your cigarettes, when you no longer have to have that tobacco in your system, then all of a sudden your social world opens up. You can try new activities. You can start going to new places where smoking's not allowed," says Piper.
However, smokers did report a change in who they hung out with. They were not spending as much time with the groups they hung out with, who all smoked together. If it was a close relationship, like a best friend, that typically was not affected.
"The hope is that smokers will hear this and think, okay, my social network may change, but it's not going to get smaller. I'm not going to end up with fewer friends. In fact what this may do is open some social opportunities for me that I haven't been able to take advantage of in the past," says Piper.
The social network growth was a general trend of the study. Not everyone who participated started out with a lot of smoking friends; for some it was just a spouse.
The study was done in collaboration between the University of Wisconsin and Penn State University. The lead author was PSU's Bethany Bray.
Piper encourages any who is thinking about quitting smoking to go to their doctor or call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.