Cigarettes, smoking, and drinking alcohol – The connection that may help you quit smoking

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

It’s no secret that alcohol and cigarettes go hand in hand, but for most drinker-smokers, the reasons are probably a mystery. Does alcohol simply make people less able to control urges or is there something more direct about the connection between the two?

Alcohol reduces control over cravings

Smoking and drinking

A recent field study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors examined exactly this question using 74 smokers who recorded their daily experience in a journal. Researchers found that alcohol consumption was associated with more frequent urges to smoke, signaling that indeed, drinking may increase the “want” while lowering the ability to control the cravings. However, the study also found that smokers reported greater satisfaction after smoking while they were drunk. Alcohol consumption predicted higher ratings of cigarette buzz, taste, and urge reduction after smoking.

Timing and context are important

Interestingly, the effects reported were only observed within the first hour after drinking, a period when alcohol content (BAC) is rising. (2)

Last but not least, situational factors seem to account for some of the effects of alcohol on smoking. Settings like bars and restaurants, where smoking and drinking were permitted, were associated with more frequent urges to smoke and greater satisfaction after smoking. Social settings, like being around drinkers and smokers, are also associated with increased urge and satisfaction.

How to quit smoking? Reduce, or stop, drinking

So, if you’re trying to quit smoking, cutting down on drinking, at least in the initial phases of your quitting attempts, might be a good idea. It may reduce your cravings, and it may make you like the smoking a bit less while you’re quitting. If nothing else, it’ll get you out of situations where smoking occurs most often which will, by itself reduce your smoking.

Citations:

1. Henningfield, J. E., Chait, L. D., & Griffiths R. R. (1984) Effects of Ethanol on cigarette smoking by volunteers without histories of alcoholism, Psychopharmacology, 82, 1-5

2. Piasecki T.M., McCarthy D.E., Fiore M.C., & Baker T.B. (2008) Alcohol consumption, smoking urge, and the reinforcing effects of cigarettes: An ecological study. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 22(2):230-9.

5 Replies to “Cigarettes, smoking, and drinking alcohol – The connection that may help you quit smoking”

  1. No offence intended, but your method is bollocks. As precipitated by the many ‘may’ words that fill your article. Doing this ‘may’ do that, or this ‘may’ do that. It shows you are unsure of your subject. The best way to quit drinking is to stop smoking first. You have it the wrong way round. If you manage to succeed escaping from smoking, then you will no longer have alcoholic tendancies. See http://medicolegal.tripod.com/preventalcoholism.htm and for quitting smoking, I highly recommend the Allen Carr method.

    1. No offense Jimmy, especially since as a scientist, I believe that only fools proclaim that they have the certain solution (no offense).

      You may note that the article was for people trying to quit smoking, not drinking, and all I was doing was describing a recent finding about some of the underlying specifics of the association.
      It may come as a surprise, but not all drinkers need to stop drinking. Some are fine with alcohol but would like to quit smoking. That was the target audience for the post, though I appreciate your bringing up other, related-but-tangential, points.

      Adi

  2. Adi Jaffe,

    I commend you! I came across this article because I was in search of tips for reducing my urge to smoke when I drink. I coast through the cravings of cigarettes just fine, Sunday through Friday. Then the weekend hits, I go out Saturday night, have three beers and find myself having a horrible time trying to tell myself every five minutes that I don’t need a cigarette. I’m taking the advice of not drink for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully that works! Props for the research though, because everyone I have talked to that tries to quit say its almost impossible to not smoke when they’ve had a couple.

    ~ Jeff

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