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Drinking Too Much? Try Quitting Smoking

A recent study British researchers examined the complex relationship between alcohol and cigarettes, finding that people who quit smoking tended to drink less booze.

by Nick Rose
Jul 26 2016, 5:00pm

For many people, smoking and drinking are intimately intertwined.

The little nicotine buzz administered via cigarette can offer a nice pick-me-up to counter the depressant effects of alcohol. Conversely, alcohol's ability to wreak havoc on one's impulse control makes it far more likely that drinkers will engage in a fundamentally stupid behaviour like smoking cigarettes.

If you get locked into this feedback loop, then there is a good chance that these habits will worsen in concert, and there is also a good chance that you will not be able to break said feedback loop. It's an interaction that has been documented by scientists and is very real, especially for those in the throes of a drinking and smoking binge.

READ MORE: Why Booze and Cigarettes Go So Well Together

But it's not all bleak for the drinkers and smokers out there. The silver lining behind this cloud of tobacco smoke is the possibility that those who quit smoking also tend to drink less. At least, those are the results of a British survey looking at 6,287 smokers who took up their nasty habit between March 2014 and September 2015. Of those respondents, 144 had attempted to quit smoking in the week before the study ended, and researchers were interested in how this impacted their drinking habits.

What the authors of this study found was that people who were attempting to quit smoking were are also cutting back significantly on their boozing. "These results go against the commonly held view that people who stop smoking tend to drink more to compensate," lead author Jamie Brown said in a press release. It's possible that they are heeding advice to try to avoid alcohol because of its link to relapse."

However, the fact that this research was purely observational means that establishing causality isn't possible without further examination. "We can't yet determine the direction of causality," Brown added. "Further research is needed to disentangle whether attempts to quit smoking precede attempts to restrict alcohol consumption or vice versa. We'd also need to rule out other factors which make both more likely, such as the diagnosis of a health problem causing attempts to cut down on both drinking and smoking."

So, are people who drink less more likely to quit smoking or do smokers just quit everything in one fell swoop? That remains to be seen, but it could be something to discuss the next time you're having a pseudo-intellectual conversation fuelled by brown liquor and cheap cigarettes.