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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

Do Cigarette Taxes Drive Us to Drink?

New research suggests rising cigarette prices are linked to an increase in "harmful drinking behaviors."

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Chasing the buzz, one way or another.
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By Gabrielle Wuhl

07/18/12

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For those who smoke "socially" only while drinking, a cigarette is the cherry on top of the sundae of inebriation—giving just the right combo of stimulants and downers to hit that "sweet spot." But as cigarette taxes mount, rates of smoking have fallen—and a new study suggests that people may be drinking more booze to compensate. The study, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, shows that higher cigarette taxes correlate with higher rates of alcohol consumption—especially among adults aged 21-29, who are increasingly likely to binge drink when cigarette prices rise. The same association was seen in people older than 65, although this demographic is far less likely to binge. However, the study also tracked smoking rates and found that while overall rates have dropped, the twenty-something category is not actually smoking lessjust drinking more. Perhaps it's "to ease the lamentation of dropping $11 on a pack of cigarettes," as one source suggests. The report concludes: "Researchers, practitioners, advocates, and policymakers should work together to understand and prepare for these unintended consequences of tobacco taxation policy."

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