Coffee and Cigarettes: A Combination with Benefits?

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Coffee and cigarettes have long been a popular combination, perfectly paired to enjoy over the Sunday morning paper or in the glow of a lazy afternoon on a café patio. 2003 even saw the release of a movie of the same name, starring Bill Murray, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi and Cate Blanchett — along with a host of other memorable characters — all of whom join in on more than their fair share of smoking and sipping their joe throughout various parts of the film.

Aside from the obvious sensory pleasure gained through combining the two habits, are there any actual benefits to being both a smoker and a coffee-drinker? A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health supports the idea that yes, there very well could be.

Coffee, Cigarettes and Bladder Cancer

In a study conducted in 2000 in Madrid, Spain, researchers from the Carlos III Institute of Health analyzed 497 men and women under the age of 80 with confirmed cases of papilloma, carcinoma and polyps of the bladder. The patients were pulled from a total of 12 general hospitals from across the country.

All study participants, along with 1,113 control cases from various hospitals and from the outside population, were interviewed using detailed questionnaires in order to determine individual use of tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke and coffee drinking habits. Occupation and family history were taken into consideration as well, as these factors have also been shown to play a role in the development of bladder cancer in males and females.

When compared with smokers who drank coffee regularly, non-coffee drinkers experienced twice as many cytotoxic (or cell damaging) effects directly associated with using tobacco. In addition, while coffee-drinking smokers were three times more liable to be diagnosed with bladder cancer as coffee-drinking nonsmokers, smokers who didn’t consume coffee at all were up to seven times more likely to be affected by the same cancer as nonsmokers.

Finally, research concluded that regular smokers who drank coffee fewer than two times each week had double the chances of developing cancerous tissues in the bladder than those who drank the caffeinated beverage frequently. The coffee-drinking smokers clearly had the health advantage over their smoking counterparts who chose to pass on the morning cuppa.

Implications of Continued Research

Clinical trials, surveys and medical statistics reveal that tobacco use is the primary preventable risk factor for bladder cancer in humans, though excessive consumption of caffeine has been closely linked with the condition as well. This study points toward the potential attenuating effect that caffeine may have on cytotoxic mutations caused by smoking, possibly lessening tobacco’s propensity to harm the cells that comprise bladder tissue.

Despite the conceivable insights this research may provide regarding smoking, ingesting caffeine and a decreased risk of developing bladder cancer, it is imperative that readers do not misinterpret the results of these studies as encouragement to continue smoking. The possibility that drinking coffee more frequently may ameliorate the effects of tobacco is not nearly enough reason or incentive to take that risk. Smoking cigarettes will ultimately result in serious health complications regardless of what you eat, drink or otherwise consume. Further, much more advanced research is required in this area before more definitive answers can be put forth regarding caffeine’s ability to mitigate tobacco’s negative effects on the body.

Related: Caffeine vs. Nicotine: The Differences and Similarities

Fortunately, finding a way to step away from cigarettes permanently is becoming easier and more accessible. One of these alternatives in particular, the electronic cigarette, allows smokers to select their preferred nicotine level and desired flavor for a more personalized vaping experience. The result is a satisfying smoking-like sensation and wholly fulfilled nicotine cravings that many vapers have attributed to their success in smoking cessation.