Heavy drinkers four times more likely to smoke in England, study finds

Those who are among the heaviest drinkers in England are four times more likely to smoke than the general population, according to a new study led by UCL researchers.

The study, published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe, looked at survey responses from a nationally representative sample of 144,583 people in England, completed over the course of seven years, from 2014 to 2021.

They found that 58% of people at risk of becoming alcohol dependent (assessed through a survey designed to detect harmful drinking habits) were current smokers, compared to 15% among the general population.

They also found that smoking prevalence and dependency increased in line with alcohol consumption – that is, the more a person drank, the more likely it was that they smoked, and the more cigarettes they were likely to smoke in a day.

The researchers said that the government needed to prioritise people at risk of alcohol dependency who smoked in its plans to achieve “smoke-free” status in England by 2030, defined to mean an adult smoking prevalence of 5% or less.

Lead author Dr Claire Garnett (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “To get close to a ‘smoke-free’ England in 2030, the government needs to target groups where smoking is highly prevalent. Our study strongly suggests that those who are among the heaviest drinkers in England, who are risk of becoming dependent on alcohol, should receive targeted smoking cessation support.

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