Casual Smokers at Greater Risk for Alcohol-Use Disorders

Sept. 25 -- TUESDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults who are casual smokers are 16 times more likely than nonsmokers to be hazardous drinkers and five times more likely to have alcohol-use disorders (AUDs), a U.S. study finds.

Sherry A. McKee, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, and her colleagues analyzed data on 5,838 adults, aged 18 to 25, who provided information about their current smoking behavior, weekly consumption of alcohol, frequency of alcohol use, frequency of binge-drinking behavior, rates of hazardous drinking, and rates of AUD diagnoses.

The study was published online in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and was expected to be published in the December print issue of the journal.

"We anticipated that the associations between alcohol use and smoking would be greatest in non-daily smokers but were surprised by the degree of the associations," McKee said in journal news release about the study. "While casual smoking was more common in college students, the relationships between smoking and drinking behavior were the same for young adults whether they were students or not."

"Non-daily smokers are a fast-growing subpopulation of smokers, now constituting at least 25 percent of all adult smokers in the U.S.," Saul Shiffman, a professor in the departments of psychology and pharmaceutical science at the University of Pittsburgh, said in the news release.

He said this study is important, because "it sheds light on particular groups defined by age and patterns of smoking and drinking. This can advance our understanding of the range of drinking patterns and also the developmental trajectory of problem drinking."

This study and previous research suggest that "casual smokers neither smoke nor drink regularly, but rather may have periodic binges where they may do both, perhaps as they become disinhibited at parties. Drinking and smoking may also mutually promote each other, leading to bouts of heavy drinking and smoking," Schiffman said.

McKee noted that most states have implemented smoking bans that include businesses where alcohol is served.

"Research indicates that smoking bans can reduce alcohol consumption in bars, particularly among heavy drinkers," she said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol and tobacco.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, news release, Sept. 23, 2008