Laws and taxes that curb smoking also reduce drinking

This article was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 8, 2014.

Drinking and smoking are two vices that have historically gone together, and a new study shows that what was true yesterday remains true today.

In this case, state laws designed to curb smoking rates have also resulted in lower drinking rates, according to research from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. But it only applies to beer and hard alcohol. Wine, the study shows, is another story.

The researchers examined three decades of smoking and drinking data from all 50 states and looked at those states’ various cigarette tax increases as well as laws banning smoking in workplaces, restaurants or bars.

The data revealed that states with the highest cigarette tax increases also had the greatest reduction in drinking. States that banned smoking in all workplaces, restaurants and bars also had drinking rates lower than states with less strict smoking policies.

Scientists found that between 1980 and 2009, every 1percent increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes led to a slightly less than 1 percent decrease in total alcohol consumption per person. Thirty-two states have cigarette taxes higher than California’s 87 cents per pack.

Washington University researchers also looked at beer, wine and liquor consumption individually and found wine drinkers weren’t affected by smoking laws.

The doctors pointed to other studies showing “people who prefer wine are less likely to smoke, more educated and more likely to have healthier lifestyle habits than those who prefer other types of alcohol.” They also added that, unlike beer and liquor, wine has been linked to health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease.