Smoking and Alcohol

Blog Post created by dr_hurt on Mar 19, 2010

An important strategy in stopping smoking is to recognize your trigger situations. Be aware of times you would normally smoke, such as driving, drinking coffee, after a meal, etc. If you anticipate these triggers you can avoid or alter your routines.  One of the major causes of relapse to smoking is drinking alcohol.  This can be difficult to address for many people, since alcohol and cigarettes seems to go “hand in hand”, literally. 

It can be important to recognize your pattern of alcohol use and decide how to modify this trigger to smoke. One thing you might decide is to abstain from drinking for the first 90 days after you stop smoking.  Some consider the first 90 days of stopping smoking a sufficient time to establish the momentum for staying stopped.  You might also consider drinking less, avoiding situations where you smoked and drank, going only to drinking establishments in which smoking is not allowed, and declining to go outside with other smokers when they leave a smoke-free area to go light up.  Get support from friends and family by telling them what you are doing.  If you decide to reduce drinking or to not drink at all you might replace alcohol with a distracting activitysuch as taking a walk, drinking an alternative beverage or using nicotine inhaler/gum. 

You are doing the right thing by avoiding or modifying this trigger. Alcohol use can lead to relapse. Drinking can bring about a strong urge to smoke and can affect your judgment and commitment to not smoke. Accordingly, it can be a great benefit to examine your alcohol behavior and avoid or modify this trigger to stop smoking and stay stopped. If drinking is one of your triggers, click here make sure to track it in your cigarette tracker. 

Dr. Richard D. Hurt is an internationally recognized expert on tobacco dependence. A native of Murray, Kentucky, he joined Mayo Clinic in 1976 and is now a Professor of Medicine at its College of Medicine. In 1988, he founded the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and since then its staff has treated more than 50,000 patients for tobacco dependence. Send your questions directly to Dr. Hurt at AskTheExpert@becomeanex.org