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Do Smoking Bans Cut Drinking, Too?

Alcohol abuse is lower in states that ban smoking in bars, say Yale researchers.

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By Valerie Tejeda

10/17/12

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Banning smoking in bars may also curb alcohol abuse, according to Yale researchers. For many people, smoking and drinking go—quite literally—hand in hand, and a new study from the Yale School of Medicine discovered that states which don’t allow smoking in bars have a higher recovery rate from alcohol use disorder (AUD). Published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the study drew from data collected on 19,763 citizens in 49 states from 2001-2005. Around 15% of the study’s participants came from states with smoke-free bars, including Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. “Smoking and drinking are considered complements, so if smoking becomes more difficult, use of alcohol may decline,” says Yale professor Jody Sindelar, one of the study’s lead authors. “This would be likely to occur in bars in which smoking is banned.” Past research has indicated that nicotine addicts are four times as likely as non-smokers to have AUD, and about 35% of people with AUD are habitual smokers. Still, some health professionals have doubts, believing it doesn't provide enough information to back up potential policy changes. Adam Goldstein, Professor at the UNC School of Medicine, says: “This is not a strong enough study, with strong enough results linked to causality, for which you could make [a policy] recommendation and not be faced with a lot of criticism.”

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