Harvard Mental Health Letter

Drinking, smoking, and quitting

Helping people with alcohol dependency quit smoking.

Anyone who's attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting knows instinctively what research confirms: people who are dependent on alcohol are also likely to smoke cigarettes. Depending on the cohort, anywhere from 35% to 95% of alcohol-dependent adults smoke cigarettes, compared with 21% of adults in the U.S. population.

Many experts believe that it's important to counsel people who are alcohol-dependent to give up smoking as well as drinking. First, most evidence indicates that giving up both habits will increase the chances of someone remaining sober. Second, it's better for overall health.

A synergistic relationship

One study of 1,508 adults found that as alcohol use increased, the odds increased that a person would begin smoking daily and develop nicotine dependence. Roughly 90% of people who were severely dependent on alcohol were also dependent on tobacco.

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