Planning to stop smoking this new year? Go easy on the drinks

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Pouring alcohol into a glass
Pouring alcohol into a glass

Reducing alcohol intake is key to quitting tobacco, say researchers

If quitting smoking is one of your New Year’s resolutions, you might want to consider cutting back on your drinking, too.

New research has found that heavy drinkers who are trying to stop smoking may find that reducing alcohol intake can help them quit their daily smoking habit. Heavy drinkers’ nicotine metabolite ratio – a biomarker that indicates how quickly a person’s body metabolizes 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. It is known to be a difficult task, said Sarah Dermody, an assistant professor at Oregon State University and the study’s lead author.

“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”

“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.”

The study has just been published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Dermody, who is based in in the School of Psychological Science in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts, studies risky behaviors such as alcohol and nicotine use with the goal of better understanding factors that contribute to them.

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.

Dermody and colleagues at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, wanted to better understand the links between the two.

“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.”