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Why Do Smoking and Drinking Go Together?

It’s no surprise that alcohol and tobacco use are among the top causes of preventable death in the U.S. And while smoking and drinking alone are bad for your health, mixing the two is even worse.

Learning how smoking and drinking can harm your health, how the two behaviors are linked, and what you can do to reduce a major factor that can cause the behaviors can improve your health and longevity.

Q. What are my health risks if I smoke and drink alcohol?

A. Being a smoker and a drinker can:

  • Decrease your longevity

  • Significantly increase your risk for mouth, throat, and esophagus cancer

  • Raise your risk of developing cardiovascular disease

  • Increase your tolerance to both nicotine and alcohol, fueling the need to use more of each substance to get the same effect

  • Raise your risk for anxiety and mood disorders

Q. What’s the connection between alcohol and smoking?

A. Alcohol can make you more likely to do things without thinking about them first. Which means when you drink, you may be more likely to smoke cigarettes.

In addition, drinking is typically a social activity, which may mean you are around more smokers when you drink. And being around smokers can make you want to smoke.

That’s why drinking alcohol is a trigger that makes many people—even those who have or are trying to quit—want to smoke. And drinking can make quitting smoking more difficult, too.

Smoking and drinking can also both be triggered by stress. But these behaviors are only a short-term fix. In fact, smoking or drinking may actually make you feel more stressed in the long run. Cravings for nicotine cause stress and long-term heavy drinking can change the way your body feels and responds to stress.

Q. What are some ways I can reduce my stress?

A. While there’s no way to eliminate stress from your life, there are strategies that can help you manage your response to challenging circumstances. In doing so, you may be able to reduce the amount that you smoke and drink.

Here are some ways to cope:

  • Exercise regularly. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day can help reduce stress and boost your mood.

  • Learn and practice relaxation exercises such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi.

  • Recognize signs of stress, including sleep problems, irritability, fatigue, depression, and increased smoking and drinking.

  • Turn to friends, family, and spiritual counselors when you’re feeling stressed.

  • Seek help from a mental health professional if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress and problems in your life.

Online Medical Reviewer: Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BC
Online Medical Reviewer: Renee Watson, L., MSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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