Smoking and Drinking Go Hand-in-Hand for Young Adults

Alcohol consumption is common among young adults. But a recent study conducted by Nan Jiang, PhD, of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California in San Francisco, revealed that a large percentage of young adults also smoke when they are at bars. Despite the fact that many California cities have instituted nonsmoking policies in public places, the results of this study suggest that young adults who attend bars and consume alcohol are much more likely to smoke, if only a little, than those who do not.

Alcohol use has long been associated with smoking. But this newest research sheds light on different drinking and smoking patterns and how they affect one another. Additionally, Jiang illuminated which smokers were more likely to try to quit smoking. This information can help direct the focus of interventions at those most at risk for smoking and those most motivated to quit.

For the study, Jiang surveyed nearly 1,000 young adults between the ages of 21 and 26. The participants were interviewed while at a bar and asked about their frequency of alcohol consumption and binge drinking, their smoking frequency, and quantity and quit attempts. The results showed that light, moderate, and heavy smokers all reported drinking at bars and also that being in attendance at a bar made quitting smoking more difficult. Binge drinking was directly associated with smoking, especially among light smokers. Alcohol consumption had a negative effect on quit attempts for moderate and light smokers, but a positive effect on quit attempts among heavy smokers.

This was an interesting finding and could be explained by the report from participants that smoking was seen as a socially accepted behavior at bars and when drinking. This finding also underscores the importance of focusing smoking cessation efforts at young adults who only smoke occasionally, and especially those who only smoke when drinking alcohol.

Although this study did not examine how light smoking may progress to heavy smoking, the risks associated with smoking are the same for light smokers as they are for heavy smokers. Therefore, the need for cessation interventions is equal among both groups. Jiang added, “Future tobacco control efforts should prioritize bars and nightclubs to reach this concentrated high-risk population.”

Jiang, Nan, PhD, and Ling, Pamela MMD, MPH. (2013). Impact of alcohol use and bar attendance on smoking and quit attempts among young adult bar patrons. American Journal of Public Health 103.5 (2013): E53-61. ProQuest. Web.

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  • gary


    September 4th, 2013 at 3:40 AM

    I knew a whole lot of girls especially when we were in college who would smoke when we went out on the proverbial Thursday night party night. That was the only night that I would see them smoke, when we would go bar hop, but that just seemd to go together. I don’t see that as much now that I have graduated and we are all adults now. Some of mus smoke and some of us don’t but it’s not like there are those who just do it in social situations the way we tended to do a little more of when we were younger,. It’s not as if we hadn’t heard of the dangers of smoking then, I just think that the whole college drinking scene kind of lent itself to encouraging more smoking than you would otherwise.

  • Robi


    September 4th, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    It scares me to think of the reckless behaviors that I engaged in when I was younger just to fit in and smoking was defintely one of them.
    I didn’t necessarily want to do it but just to feel like I was aprt of a peer group, it just kind of felt like it was the thing to do.
    And now to read that even light smoking in the past could have a negative effect on my health that frightens me because this is behavior that I engaged in for several years all in an effort to be a part of a group that I am not longer even in touch with now on a regular basis.

  • Andrew


    September 5th, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    So how do you stop this kind of behavior? I mean this is typical young adult behavior. I don’t think that there are going to be amny of us who will say that we didn’t do it and don’t think that there are tons of kids who won’t try it at least a couple of times. It’s like those two things go hand in hand and it is hard, especially at that young age, to separate those two things when you are searching out your identity. I will say though that this just underscores the fact that we have to remain vigilant about telling our kids about the dangers of smoking and drinking, and that maybe this will allow them to only try it casually and in moderation, and not pick it up as lifelong habits.

  • runninfast


    September 7th, 2013 at 4:49 AM

    Hello! We have all been young before right? I mean, didn’t you try some things when you were a kid that you wouldn’t dare do today? I know I did and I am willing to be that most of the rest of us did too. We just have to hope that we lay a solid enough foundation for our kids that will allow them to make some wise choices along the way, and be smart enough to recognize when they haven’t made the wisest choices too which will allow them to change course and start over.

  • Carmen


    September 9th, 2013 at 3:47 AM

    I think that the numbers are going down but they are still significant enough to worry many.

    The thing that we have to continue doing is talking to kids about the dangers of smoking and drinking and being up front and honest with thej that there will be times when they will be faced with decisions that are not going to be easy to make. They may even feel like they will alienate their friends by telling them no. But there are times where you have to look out for your own health and well being and by saying no to smoking and drinking together this is one step in the right direction.

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