Alcohol consumption and tobacco dependence are closely related. In an old study held between March 2014 and September 2015 in England, 6,287 out of 31,878 people reported smoking. These results were obtained from household surveys representing a cross-section of England’s adult population and, of the smokers, 144 had begun an attempt to quit smoking in the week before the survey. The respondents of the survey were asked to complete the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test consumption questionnaire (Audit-C).
According to Jamie Brown, from University College in London, England and the lead author of a more recent study also conducted in England, people who attempted to stop smoking within the week before the study reported lower levels of alcohol consumption and were less likely to binge drink. When compared to those who did not attempt to stop smoking, they had a lower alcohol risk and were more likely to be classified as ‘light drinkers’.
Brown goes on to say that these results go against the widely held view that people who had stopped smoking tend to drink more to compensate. He admits that it is possible that this is because smokers fear that alcohol could lead to a relapse in their attempt to quit smoking, and that they are therefore consciously avoiding alcohol use.
Smokers taking part in the research were classified as either heavy drinkers (indicated with an Audit-C score greater than 5) or light drinkers (an Audit-C score below 5). The researchers then compared the alcohol consumption of smokers who had attempted to quit in the last week with those who had not, in order to find the association among smokers in England who had recently attempt to quit smoking and their alcohol consumption.
The researchers concluded that people who have recently begun an attempt to quit smoking tobacco are less likely to try to drink more alcohol than other smokers are. Brown does however admit that they have not yet determined the direction of causality as this was an observational study, which means that it cannot demonstrate cause and effect. It is possible that smokers deliberately restrict their alcohol consumption when attempting to quit smoking to limit the chance of a relapse. It is however also possible that people who drink less have a better chance to quit smoking. If the latter is the case, smokers who consume more alcohol may need more encouragement to quit smoking.
Further research is needed to determine whether attempts to restrict alcohol consumption follow attempts to quit smoking, or vice versa.
Full study has been published in the journal BMC Public Health.