Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption are positively correlated, and the concurrent use of tobacco and alcohol exacerbates the health risks associated with the singular use of either product. Indoor smoke-free policies have been effective in reducing smoking, but little is known about any impact of these policies on drinking behavior. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the potential association between the implementation of smoke-free bar policies and smokers’ alcohol consumption.
A prospective, multi-country cohort survey design was utilized. Participants were nationally representative samples of smokers from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States, who were interviewed as part of the International Tobacco Control Four Country Survey (ITC-4) in 2005, 2007, or 2008 (N = 11914). Changes in the frequency and amount of alcohol consumption were assessed as functions of change in the presence of smoke-free bar policies over time.
Overall, changes in alcohol consumption were statistically indistinguishable between those whose bars became smoke-free and those whose bars continued to allow smoking. However, implementation of smoke-free policies was associated with small reductions in the amount of alcohol typically consumed by those who were classified as hazardous drinkers, along with small reductions in the frequency of alcohol consumption among heavy smokers.
Smoking bans in public places, which protect millions of non-smokers from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, do not appear to be associated with sizable reductions in smokers’ alcohol consumption in general, but may be associated with small consumption reductions among subgroups.