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Smoking less does not equal drinking more

Smokers who gave up their tobacco habit did not reach for the bottle
Smoking and drinking

The common conception that people giving up smoking will drink more alcohol to compensate has been questioned by a study.

People who recently embarked on an attempt to give up smoking tobacco were found to be more likely to drink less alcohol than smokers in general.

Lead author Jamie Brown from University College London said: These results go against the commonly held view that people who stop smoking tend to drink more to compensate. Its possible that they are heeding advice to try to avoid alcohol because of its link to relapse.

The report authors note that as they carried out an observational study it does not show the reasons for the behaviour observed. Therefore, it is currently not possible to say if smokers are cutting back on alcohol as they give up smoking to reduce the chances of them failing, or whether less heavy drinkers are

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The common conception that people giving up smoking will drink more alcohol to compensate has been questioned by a study.

People who recently embarked on an attempt to give up smoking tobacco were found to be more likely to drink less alcohol than smokers in general.

Lead author Jamie Brown from University College London said: ‘These results go against the commonly held view that people who stop smoking tend to drink more to compensate. It’s possible that they are heeding advice to try to avoid alcohol because of its link to relapse.’

The report authors note that as they carried out an observational study it does not show the reasons for the behaviour observed. Therefore, it is currently not possible to say if smokers are cutting back on alcohol as they give up smoking to reduce the chances of them failing, or whether less heavy drinkers are more likely to quit smoking.

Jamie Brown said: ‘We can’t yet determine the direction of causality. 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.’

The study was carried out as part of the ongoing Smoking Toolkit Study and Alcohol Toolkit Study in England. Each month about 1,700 people aged 16-plus complete a computer-assisted survey. The study is funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research.

Brown J (2016) Are recent attempts to quit smoking associated with reduced drinking in England? A cross-sectional population survey. BMC Public Health. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3223-6

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