Giving up alcohol may help quit smoking: Study

If quitting smoking is one of your New Year's resolutions, you may want to consider cutting back on your drinking too, scientists say.

If quitting smoking is one of your New Year's resolutions, you may want to consider cutting back on your drinking too, scientists say.

According to a study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, heavy drinkers who are trying to stop smoking may find that reducing their alcohol use can also help them quit their daily smoking habit.

Heavy drinkers' nicotine metabolite ratio -- a biomarker that indicates how quickly a person's body metabolises nicotine -- reduced as they cut back on their drinking.

Past research has suggested that people with higher nicotine metabolism ratios are likely to smoke more and that people with higher rates have a harder time quitting.

Slowing a person's nicotine metabolism rate through reduced drinking could provide an edge when trying to stop smoking, which is known to be a difficult task, said Sarah Dermody, an assistant professor at Oregon State University in the US.

"It takes a lot of determination to quit smoking, often several attempts," Dermody said.

"This research suggests that drinking is changing the nicotine metabolism as indexed by the nicotine metabolite ratio, and that daily smoking and heavy drinking may best be treated together," she said.

Researchers studied risky behaviours such as alcohol and nicotine use with the goal of better understanding factors that contribute to alcohol and nicotine use and how best to intervene with problematic use of these substances.

Use of both alcohol and cigarettes is widespread, with nearly 1 in 5 adults using both. Cigarette use is especially prevalent in heavy drinkers. Drinking is a well-established risk factor for smoking, and smoking is well-established risk factor for drinking.

Researchers wanted to better understand the links between the two. They studied the nicotine metabolite ratio, an index of nicotine metabolism, in a group of 22 daily smokers who were seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder - the medical term for severe problem drinking - over several weeks.

"What's really interesting is that the nicotine metabolite ratio is clinically useful," Dermody said.

"People with a higher ratio have a harder time quitting smoking cold turkey. They have are also less likely to successfully quit using nicotine replacement therapy products," he added.

They found that as the men in the study group reduced their drinking -- from an average of 29 drinks per week to 7 -- their nicotine metabolite rate also dropped.

The findings for men replicated those of an earlier study that found similar effects and provide further evidence of the value of the nicotine metabolite ratio biomarker to inform treatment for smokers trying to quit, Dermody said. 

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Giving up alcohol may help quit smoking: Study

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