With St. Patrick’s Day nearing, one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year, not only will millions of gallons of green beer be consumed, but also millions of cigarettes will be smoked outside of pubs, bars, and parties across the globe. While many of us simply write off smoking while drinking alcohol as “Oh, I only smoke when I’m buzzed,” there may actually be more to your urge for nicotine while throwing back a few drinks than your pals’ peer pressure and some liquid courage.
Do Drinkers Really Smoke More?
From a top-level perspective, alcohol is classified as a depressant, while nicotine, found in cigarettes and e-cigs alike, is considered a stimulant. Anyone who has had a beer or a smoke knows that you won’t immediately fall asleep or start bouncing off the walls, but it’s clear that each substances’ chemicals alter the way our body functions. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that somewhere between 80 and 95 percent of alcoholics also use cigarettes. With such a significant amount of those who are chemically dependent on alcohol also chemically dependent on nicotine delivered by cigarettes, the days of the “social smoker” excuse are numbered.
Related: What Does Nicotine Do to the Body?
No, smoking a pack of cigarettes will not help you drink twice as much as usual. Alcohol and tobacco actually cancel out the effects of each other, creating a chemical “storm” in the body that can counteract the ability to feel the adverse effects of smoking, or the memory-impaired effects of alcohol. If you’ve ever left the bar at the end of the night and saw dozens of patrons smoking outside to “sober up”, this concept reinforces the idea that nicotine can mitigate the loss of mental alertness caused by alcohol consumption.
Triggers “Reward” Brain
Both alcohol and cigarettes contain chemicals that trigger the body to release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for transmitting information between neurons in the brain. Naturally, dopamine is released when something good happens, like getting paid or sitting down for a meal. When drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette, dopamine is artificially released, creating a feeling of satisfaction, or reward. This chemical release in the brain is what’s responsible for “feeling good” after a few beers, or “feeling good” after a post-meal smoke.
Feeling good yet? When alcohol and tobacco are consumed together, dopamine levels flat line, creating the risk of a dangerous, addictive cycle of juggling alcohol and tobacco use to “chase” that bolstered dopamine production. For one night out of the year, it may not seem like that great of a risk. What many are not aware of is that the leading causes of death in alcoholics isn’t alcohol-related, but rather smoking-related diseases like chronic lung disorders, lung cancer, heart attacks, and strokes.
Societal Norms & Peer Pressure
Heading out with friends for drinks and celebration doesn’t automatically mean you’ll need to light up a cigarette with them in between every drink. Do you dress in the same exact outfit as your “gang” before heading out? Then why would you need to partake in the evening’s festivities when they head outside for a cigarette? Most bars and pubs embrace smokers, as they are often also the biggest spenders/best customers, and have made a shift towards making larger outdoor spaces that can accommodate smokers without having to send them away from the bar.
Bring an E-Cig to the Bar!
So, what’s the best way to handle the urge for a social smoke? Well, with a Fling Wide Mini of course! White Cloud’s smallest disposable e-cigarette is the perfect e-cig to bring out for a night on the town. It’s strong vapor production and various nicotine levels will let you get your “nic-fix” while the rest of the crew is lighting up, without having to break your smoke-free habits.
We want to hear from you about your experiences with alcohol and tobacco! Do you find that the two go hand-in-hand, or is it an individual choice to combine the two? Let us know in the comments below, and your comment could turn into the next blog discussion!