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Cigarette Taxes Deter Heavy Drinking, Study Suggests

FRIDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Higher cigarette taxes help reduce drinking among certain groups of people, U.S. researchers say.

To assess the impact that increases in cigarette taxes between 2001-02 and 2004-05 had on drinking behavior, researchers analyzed data from more than 21,000 drinkers who took part in a survey from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The cigarette tax increases were associated with modest to moderate reductions in drinking among "vulnerable groups," according to the study, which was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Results suggest that increases in cigarette taxes were associated with reductions in alcohol consumption over time among male smokers," corresponding author Sherry McKee, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, said in a journal news release. "The protective effects were most pronounced among subgroups who are most at risk for adverse alcohol-related consequences, including male heavy drinkers, young adults and those with the lowest income."

Smoking and heavy drinking occur together at very high rates, McKee said, noting that tobacco can enhance the subjective effects of alcohol and has been shown to increase the risk for heavy and problematic drinking.

Cigarette taxes, meanwhile, have been recognized as one of the most significant policy instruments to reduce smoking, McKee said. "By increasing the price of cigarettes, taxes are thought to encourage smokers to reduce their use of cigarettes or quit altogether, and discourage non-smokers from starting to smoke," she said.

Christopher Kahler, professor and chairman of the department of behavioral and social sciences at Brown School of Public Health, welcomed the new study. "These findings suggest that if states increase taxes on cigarettes, they are not only likely to reduce smoking -- based on a large body of literature -- but they also may have a modest impact on heavy drinking rates among men, those with lower income and those who drink most heavily," he said in the news release.

"In other words, policies that target one specific health behavior may have broader benefits to public health by affecting additional health behaviors that tend to co-occur with the targeted health behavior," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol use disorders.

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