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Comparing the Dangers of Drinking and Smoking

Comparing the Dangers of Smoking vs. Drinking

Smoking and drinking have many similarities and differences. The two are both legal in the United States for people over a certain age, but just because they are legal, it does not make them safe. Whether from the chemicals from smoking or alcohol itself, both substances can have damaging effects on the human body, especially when used frequently and excessively. Banyan Treatment Centers Pompano is here to illustrate a comparison between the effects of drinking and smoking, and how an addiction to either habit can quickly escalate into a much more concerning problem.

Comparing Smoking vs. Drinking

Both alcohol and cigarettes have widespread use, but drinking is more common. In the United States, 55% of adults have reported drinking in the past month.1 In comparison, only 13.7% of adults in the United States are smokers.2 Several people abuse both. While these substances have a lot in common, their dangers are very different.

Short-Term Dangers of Smoking vs. Drinking

Unlike smoking, alcohol has many short-term effects of intoxication that can be fatal. Someone is not going to overdose on nicotine from smoking cigarettes, but on average, six people a day in the United States die from alcohol poisoning.3

Along with overdose, alcohol impairs people’s judgment and motor skills when they are intoxicated. This deadly combination can lead to accidents and injuries including car accidents from driving under the influence. About 28% of fatalities from driving in 2016 were the result of drivers who were impaired by alcohol.4 If someone you care about regularly puts themselves in danger from drinking, it may be one of the first signs that they need care at our alcohol addiction centers in Florida. In contrast, the short-term risks of dying from cigarette smoking are unlikely. There are occasional reports of people dying from fires started by cigarettes, but these numbers only tally to about 590 people a year.5

Long-Term Dangers of Smoking & Drinking

Although smoking a cigarette may not have many immediate risks, its long-term dangers are severe. Smoking can lead to a plethora of health problems including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, COPD, stroke, tuberculosis, and more.2 While not as widespread in damage, prolonged alcohol abuse is also dangerous and leads to some long-term effects including liver disease and increased risk of cancer.

Both smoking and alcohol are also addictive and the body can become dependent on them. People who do become dependent often need a partial hospitalization or outpatient program to finally stop. While many people drink without any problems, tobacco products are much more addictive. Over half of people who try smoking will become daily smokers at least temporarily.6 Even worse, people are often addicted to both at the same time. People who are addicted to tobacco are four times more likely to be addicted to alcohol than the general population.7

Vaping vs. Alcohol

Vaping is advertised as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, but the long-term effects of vaping are still mostly unknown and the trend is relatively new. E-cigarettes may be more hazardous than many people realize, but evidence on whether vaping is more dangerous than drinking still needs to be determined.

Effects of Smoking and Drinking at the Same Time

In today's society, drinking and smoking at the same time have become a common and alarming habit. Using tobacco and alcohol together, which is perceived by many as common social activities, can have a cumulative effect on one's health and result in a variety of negative outcomes. People need to understand the precise impacts of the dual habit to make well-informed decisions regarding their lifestyle and well-being.

Effects of smoking and drinking simultaneously include:

  • Cardiovascular disease: The risk of heart-related disorders including hypertension, atherosclerosis, and heart attacks is increased when tobacco and alcohol are combined.
  • Respiratory issues: Concurrent drinking and tobacco use exacerbate two respiratory conditions: bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Cancer: Individuals who smoke and drink together are at significantly higher risk of getting lung, esophageal, throat, and oral cancers.
  • Synergistic addiction: Alcohol and tobacco can amplify addictive tendencies, making it more challenging for people to quit one of them on their own. This phenomenon is known as synergistic addiction.
  • Reduced cognitive abilities: Combining alcohol and smoking can lower cognitive function, which can impair memory, concentration, and judgment.
  • Increased risk of cognitive decline: Prolonged use of both substances may accelerate the aging process of the brain and increase the risk of conditions like dementia.
  • Weakened defenses: Drinking alcohol and smoking combined lower immunity, making a person more susceptible to illnesses and infections.
  • Poor nutrient absorption: Smoking and alcohol consumption can impair the body's ability to absorb essential nutrients, leading to malnutrition and related health issues.

When alcohol and cigarettes are used together, there is a complicated network of negative effects that go beyond the risks specific to each drug. Together, smoking and alcohol have a substantial negative influence on immunity, reduced cognitive function, and increased health risks. For those who engage in this practice to make wise decisions regarding their health and well-being, they must be aware of these impacts.

Is Smoking Worse Than Drinking?

Additionally, it's important to consider the comparative risks when evaluating smoking vs drinking. Alcohol can do a large amount of damage both immediately from intoxication as well as over time with prolonged use. In contrast, smoking has few short-term concerns but leads to several long-term dangers. Although the dangers of drinking and smoking are very different, according to annual death numbers, smoking is worse than drinking. In the United States, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year, but about 480,000 people die from tobacco.1,2 Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the country; whereas, alcohol is the third.1

It's important to realize that drinking and smoking both greatly increase the overall burden of illnesses and untimely deaths when comparing the two. The risk profile of each person may differ depending on variables like usage frequency, genetics, and general health. Because of this, it's critical to approach both behaviors with a nuanced understanding of the potential implications and, if you're battling with addiction to either or both substances, to seek professional assistance or help. A person's lifespan and quality of life can be significantly increased by making proactive changes to their lifestyle.

Neither habit is good for your health, especially with prolonged or frequent use. It is best to get help before the problems get worse or the damage becomes irreversible. Our Florida rehabs help people overcome their substance abuse problems so that they can regain control of their lives.

If you or someone you care about has a substance abuse problem, get help today. Call our drug rehab in Pompano Beach at 888-280-4763 to get started.


  1. NIH - Alcohol Facts and Statistics
  2. CDC - Smoking & Tobacco Use
  3. CDC - Alcohol Poisoning Deaths
  4. CDC - Motor Vehicle Safety
  5. NFPA - Home Fires Started by Smoking
  6. Science Daily - At least 3 out of 5 people who try a cigarette become daily smokers
  7. NIH -  Alcohol and Tobacco: How Smoking May Promote Excessive Drinking
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Comparing the Dangers of Drinking and Smoking
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