Teenage smokers at higher risk of alcohol abuse

In collaboration with the Press Association

Teenage smokers are at a greater risk of alcohol abuse in later life than their non-smoking peers, says new research by the Washington University School of Medicine.

Tobacco and alcohol are two of the biggest causes of avoidable cancer. Smoking and drinking together increases the risk of developing certain cancers even more.

The researchers looked at US National Survey data on drug use and health from almost 75,000 young adults and teenagers, finding that smokers are more likely to have an alcohol-related disorder.

"In general, smokers were at more than a 50 per cent higher risk, although the differences were larger in younger adolescents and among light drinkers," said lead-author, professor Richard Grucza.

"We conclude that, although smokers do drink higher rates of alcohol, this alone does not explain their higher vulnerability to alcohol disorders."

Professor Grucza said that there was some evidence to suggest that smoking made teenagers more prone to addiction, as it stimulated the brain's 'reward' receptors and may leave them more receptive to other forms of stimulation.

"Studies like this will set up an alert ? for those who consider adolescent smoking tolerable ? to rethink the issue, or perceive the problem differently," he added.

The study is published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.