Dangers of Smoking and Drinking

Maybe you exercise regularly and eat healthily. Did you know that you can undo these good habits with bad ones like smoking and drinking?

Regular smoking and drinking increases your risk of cancers of the lung and liver. The damage to your body starts from smoking just one cigarette. Some people think alcohol is good for the heart but it’s not true. Even though red wine does contain natural antioxidants, this is in small amounts and the risks of alcohol outweigh the benefits. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a loss of productivity, risky behaviour such as drink driving, and even violent behaviour.

A study conducted by The Scripps Research Institute in US showed that nicotine exposure promotes alcohol dependence.[1] This explains why smoking and drinking tend to go hand-in-hand. In other words, it’s a vicious cycle—smoking reinforces drinking and vice versa.

Related: Smoking - Casual Habit or Addiction?

Social Norms on Smoking and Drinking

Some people smoke or drink excessively to relieve stress or cope with problems. Studies have shown that social norms play a part in shaping behaviour. Often, people smoke or drink among friends who do so, to be socially accepted. This is true especially for men.[4]

The problem with smoking is that it becomes behaviour that is part of your life, meaning that smoking becomes an auto-response, not a conscious decision.[4] Unfortunately, smoking and drinking tend to go together. By engaging in such behaviour among friends, one bad habit leads to two, multiplying the negative effects to your body.

Related: Cool Places to Hang out Without Lighting Up

How Can I Help Myself Cut Down or Quit?

If you hang out with friends who smoke and drink, here are a few ways that you can still cut down on your cigarette and alcohol consumption:

  • Break the association of smoking with drinking. By not engaging in both sets of behaviours at once, you can focus on stopping one habit at a time, instead of both, which can be daunting in the beginning.

  • Cut back a little each day e.g., have one less cigarette or drink per day so that every day you cut down is a small success to be celebrated.

  • Consider alternative activities for future social gatherings: sports/games, social gatherings in non-drinking/smoking areas.

  • Have smaller-sized drinks.

  • Drink water as a ‘spacer’ between drinks.

For smokers aiming to quit smoking completely, quitting cold turkey is known to be one of the most effective methods. But if you feel that you are not ready to quit immediately, you can consider these methods:

  • Gradual reduction method i.e. start by cutting down the number of cigarettes each day

  • Delay method i.e. put off having a cigarette as long as possible

  • Nicotine replacement therapy e.g., nicotine gum, skin patches, or lozenges

Enlist the support of family and friends in your journey to quit.

Resources for Quitting

Join the I Quit 28-Day Countdown now! Call QuitLine at 1800 438 2000 for support, and visit participating retail pharmacies for advice that can help you quit.


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References

  1. George, O. (2015, Apr 14). TSRI Scientists Find that Nicotine Use Increases Compulsive Alcohol Consumption. The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).
    Retrieved September 2016 from http://www.scripps.edu/news/press/2015/20150414george.html

  2. Picco, L., Subramaniam, M., Abdin, E., Vaingankar, J. A., & Chong, S. A. (2012). Smoking and Nicotine Dependence in Singapore: Findings from a Cross-Sectional Epidemiological Study. The Annals, 41(8), 10-10.
    Retrieved September 2016 from http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo8Aug2012/V41N8p325.pdf

  3. Norton, C. (1999, May 3). Men smoke cigarettes to deal with their emotions. Independent.
    Retrieved September 2016 from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/men-smoke-cigarettes-to-deal-with-their-emotions-1091229.html
  4. Innes, E. (2013, Mar 13). Men smoke to have fun, but for stressed-out women, it's all about preserving inner calm. Mail Online.
    Retrieved September 2015 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2292606/Men-smoke-fun-stressed-women-preserving-inner-calm.html
  5. NHS England. (n.d.). Tips on cutting down [Website].
    Retrieved September 2016 from https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Tips​oncuttingdown.aspx