Picture this: You’re at a (post-pandemic) happy hour with friends, coworkers, or your significant other. Drinks are flowing, masks are off, and inhibitions are lowering, when you hear those magic words: “Smoke break?”
Even if you’re just a casual cigarette smoker or if you’ve only had a drink or two, this is likely a tempting offer. The smoke break provides more time spent with friends, a quick location change, and if you’re a regular smoker, you were likely going to smoke at some point anyway – why not now?
However, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, or using a vape can negatively impact your body (both physically and mentally) in similar ways, and the lowered inhibitions from alcohol make smoking that much easier. How exactly do these drugs affect you, and what can you do to break the cycle?
1. Social usage
Like we mentioned above, being around other cigarette and vape users makes it easier for you to take a smoke break, even if you aren’t feeling cravings at the time. The social aspect of smoking is something that even casual smokers deal with, and it can start innocuously enough – you only smoke on weekends, or you only smoke while drinking, or you only smoke when you’re with other smokers.
However, these little smoke breaks or small puffs taken on a friend’s vape can build up to form a regular habit much in the way that alcohol usage can. Think about drinking: You may start with only one or two drinks on nights out, but as your tolerance builds, those numbers can quickly grow. If you’re not careful, this can result in regular binge drinking and all the poor choices that come with it – including smoking more regularly.
Much in the same way, the more frequently you smoke or vape, the more frequently you’ll smoke or vape – alcohol and cigarettes both share those addictive qualities that can build to too much use.
Verywell Mind reports there is a behavioral link between cigarette smoking and alcohol use: “If you have more than five drinks a week, you’re two-and-a-half times more likely to smoke. [Additionally,] smokers are three times more likely to drink to excess.”
The pressure felt during social situations when other people are smoking paired with the behavioral effects can make cutting back on smoking or drinking difficult.
2. Bad alone, worse together
For the most part, everyone can agree that alcohol and cigarette or vape usage are unhealthy habits – but we often view them as vices that many people indulge in without substantial long-term consequences. Unfortunately, this is not only inaccurate but also especially dangerous when the two drugs are combined.
According to the American Chemical Society (as reported by ScienceDaily), researchers have found that “the joint use of tobacco and alcohol could increase neural damage in particular brain regions.” So not only are you more likely to smoke or vape if you’re using alcohol (and vice-versa), but the negative impacts from each drug are also amplified by the other.
3. Shared negative health impacts
If you’re a regular smoker or drinker, you’re probably already aware of the immediate negative impacts on your health: hangovers, sore throats, anxiety, and more. For people who smoke and drink, these effects can grow exponentially – and they’re not the worst of the potential problems caused by smoking while drinking.
According to Healthline, the cumulative effects of alcohol can lead to heart damage, cancer, shrinking brain, slurred speech, and (of course) dependence on the drug, among other consequences. Meanwhile, the CDC reports that smoking can lead to cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and a host of other health issues.
When combined, this puts users at a much greater risk of heart damage and cancer, not to mention the other individual effects that don’t overlap. Additionally, more surface-level adverse effects – such as premature aging – can be caused by the usage of alcohol and cigarettes together. Ever woken up with a raging hangover and felt that your skin was puffy, tight, or dry? That’s a result of the alcohol, and continued use of cigarettes can cause the same aesthetic issues.
4. Facing the consequences
Finally, if you overuse drugs or alcohol, you’ll potentially run into negative social effects. These can occur in different forms: Your friends become tired of taking care of you on nights out when you’ve overindulged, you become known as “the smoker of the group,” or people may comment on the smell of smoke or alcohol on your clothes.
If the negative health effects listed above didn’t make you rethink using alcohol and cigarettes or vapes concurrently, these social consequences might provide more motivation. It’s hard to imagine getting diagnosed with heart disease or cancer if you’ve been relatively healthy your whole life. Still, for the average adult, you’ve likely felt embarrassed or ashamed before – and the more frequently you smoke and drink, the more likely you are to experience these feelings again. While you may not be the only person you know who smokes and drinks, this social stigma could be helpful to keep in mind to help prevent yourself from overdoing it on either end.
By this point, you’ve considered your own habits when it comes to smoking and drinking, you know the potential consequences (both health-related and social), and you understand why cigarettes and alcohol can be more dangerous when mixed. So what next?
Cutting back on cigarettes or vaping doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the social aspect of smoke breaks. The next time you’re out with friends and someone proposes a smoke break, consider trying a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like LUCY chew + park or lozenges. We designed LUCY to serve as a replacement for cigarettes or vaping, allowing you to control your nicotine intake, while still enjoying time with friends.
Additionally, the more you use LUCY, the less you may actually want those breaks – our products can cut cravings immediately when they happen, so once you make the switch, you might even not feel the need to partake in the break.
The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should not be construed as a substitute for, professional medical or health advice on any subject matter. Please consult your physician regarding any medical treatment decisions.
Note: If you’re struggling with alcohol abuse issues, consider reaching out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357).