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Cigarette Taxes and Smoke-Free Policies Lower Alcohol Intake

Update Date: Sep 23, 2014 04:07 PM EDT

Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths throughout the world. In order to encourage people to quit the habit, policies such as higher cigarette taxes and stricter smoke-free laws have been enforced. These policies, according to a new study, are not only effective in reducing smoking prevalence, they are also effective in lower alcohol consumption.

"In situations when smokers are drinking alcohol, it tends to trigger cravings for a cigarette," explained corresponding author for the study, Melissa J. Krauss, senior statistical data analyst at Washington University School of Medicine. "Some people even tend to smoke only when they drink, but not at any other time."

In this study, the researchers examined the state per capital alcohol consumption between 1980 and 2009. They analyzed the consumption rates in relation to the price of a cigarette pack and smoke-free policies in each state. The team found that during this time period, any spikes in cigarette prices and stricter laws regarding indoor smoking were tied to a reduction in the consumption of beer and spirits but not wine.

The team calculated that a 20 percent increase in the price of cigarettes resulted in a two percent decrease in per capita beer intake. The enforcement of a statewide ban on smoking indoors and outdoors, which included bars, restaurant and worksites, resulted in a four percent reduction in per capita beer consumption and an 11 percent reduction in per capita spirits consumption.

"People who prefer beer or liquor are more likely to be smokers than people who prefer wine. In fact, people who prefer wine are not only less likely to smoke but are also more likely to have other healthier lifestyle habits and have more years of education than people who prefer other types of alcoholic beverages," Krauss said according to the press release. "Because smoking may be a trigger for drinking, people who want to cut down on their drinking may find it easier if they also stop smoking."

Kelly Young-Wolff, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, added, "Results from this study ... highlight the importance of research that targets the interactions of tobacco and alcohol. These findings can pave the way for a productive line of future research aimed to identify secondary public-health benefits that accrue following increases in cigarette taxes, such as alcohol-related violence, drunk driving, and alcohol-related morbidity and mortality."

The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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