Heavy drinkers four times more likely to smoke, study finds

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Scientists from UCL found that those who are among the heaviest drinkers in England are four times more likely to smoke than the general population

The research is published in The Lancet Regional Health—Europe and was conducted by Dr. Claire Garnett et al.

In the study, the team looked at survey responses from a nationally representative sample of 144,583 people in England, completed over the course of seven years, from 2014 to 2021.

They found that 58% of people at risk of becoming alcohol dependent (assessed through a survey designed to detect harmful drinking habits) were current smokers, compared to 15% among the general population.

The team also found that smoking prevalence and dependency increased in line with alcohol consumption—that is, the more a person drank, the more likely it was that they smoked, and the more cigarettes they were likely to smoke in a day.

Respondents who had the highest score—that is, who were most at risk, and who were England’s heaviest drinkers—had the highest smoking prevalence (76% were current smokers, and 81% were past-year smokers).

Smokers who were at risk of alcohol dependence also smoked more.

The researchers found that nearly a third (30%) of people in this group started smoking within five minutes of waking, compared to 13% of smokers who drank alcohol but were not at risk of dependence, and 17% of non-drinkers.

Smokers at risk of alcohol dependence smoked 14 cigarettes a day on average, compared to 11.5 among non-drinkers and 10.9 among drinkers not at risk.

The researchers said that the government needed to prioritize people at risk of alcohol dependency who smoked in its plans to achieve “smoke-free” status in England by 2030, defined to mean an adult smoking prevalence of 5% or less.

The study strongly suggests that those who are among the heaviest drinkers, who are at risk of becoming dependent on alcohol, should receive targeted smoking cessation support.

If you care about smoking, please read studies about why some non-smokers get lung disease and some heavy smokers do not, and smoking cessation drug may help treat Parkinson’s disease.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about new way to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and results showing drug duo that may cure COVID-19 together.

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