Often you hear about the dangers associated with alcohol misuse (heavy drinking, binge drinking, drunk driving, health issues, etc.), as well as those associated with tobacco use (cancer, lung/respiratory disease, pregnancy-related issues, fertility issues, second-hand smoke, etc.). But what we don’t often talk about is how the use of these two substances together might affect you.

Did you know that alcohol consumption and tobacco use are closely linked behaviors? Not only are people who drink alcohol more likely to smoke and vice versa, but also people who drink large amounts of alcohol tend to smoke more cigarettes. People who have a substance use disorder that involves drugs, alcohol, or tobacco are more likely to misuse other drugs, as well as develop more behavioral health issues such as depression.

Studies estimate smoking rates among heavy/high-risk drinkers to be as high as 90 percent. They also show that approximately 70 percent of heavy/high-risk drinkers smoke at least one pack of cigarettes per day. On the flip side, research also indicates smokers are far more likely to consume alcohol than nonsmokers, and smokers who are dependent on nicotine have a 2.7 times greater risk of misusing alcohol than nonsmokers. Though the smoking rate in the general population has gradually declined over the past three decades, the smoking rate among individuals who misuse alcohol has remained consistently high.

What does all of this mean? The joint use of alcohol and cigarettes can be a “double whammy” to your overall health and well-being. Increasing use of one tends to lead to increased use of the other. Since both are associated with significant health risks, this means you may actually be doubling your risks of developing serious health issues long term.

So what’s the answer? How do you avoid this increased risk level? Look for healthy lifestyle alternatives. Check with your local fitness center, Outdoor Recreation office, or Single Marine Program to see what activities are happening in your area. Also, consider joining forces with other Marines, friends and family members to establish a healthy routine you can do together. Try keeping healthy alternatives nearby — reach for fruits/veggies instead of a cigarette, or a cold glass of refreshing lemonade instead of a beer. Substituting healthy items all or most of the time will help to establish a healthier lifestyle and reduce the risk level of the affects that alcohol and cigarettes have on your body.

For more advice on how to live a healthy lifestyle, contact the Health Promotion office at your installation. If you or someone you know is dealing with substance, contact your local Substance Abuse Counseling Center.