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Why do I want to smoke so much when I drink?

Most people crave alcohol when they are smoking, and crave cigarettes when they are drinking. Why is this?

Drinking is a strong social trigger for smoking, that's true. But there is a bit more to it.

Nicotine actually changes how the brain responds to alcohol, which means more alcohol is needed before you get the same feel-good response that a non-smoker gets after a couple of drinks. Meanwhile, the alcohol increases the level of feel-good chemicals produced in the brain by nicotine.

Want another good reason to quit?

If you smoke you're more likely to have hangovers and to have worse hangovers than non-smokers. This is probably because cigarette smoke contains a chemical called acetaldehyde, which is also present in alcohol and is thought to be behind those nasty hangover symptoms. 

Many smokers talk about waking up after a big night and feeling sick because they've had too many drinks and too many cigarettes. How much money could you save, and how much better would you feel, if you weren't blowing money on smokes and booze? 

How to manage quitting and alcohol

The best thing you can do is steer clear of Friday or Saturday night drinks, just for a few weeks until your body gets used to being smokefree.

If that’s not possible, use these tips to fight the urge to smoke when you’re around alcohol and cigarettes:

  • Take something to keep your hands busy – playing with your necklace, watch or phone can help.
  • Take a walk around the block or jump in a taxi if it's getting tough. 
  • Consider what you’ll say to people if they offer you a smoke. Something polite like ‘No thank you, I don’t smoke anymore’ is a good idea.
  • Ask your friends to support your decision to quit smoking and to not offer you cigarettes.
  • Stick to one or two drinks, or drink water between drinks. Too much alcohol can weaken your plan to quit smoking and make you more like to slip up. 
  • Be wary of the “just one” thought. It usually leads to full-time smoking again and non-smokers don’t need “just one” anyway.

Each time you resist a craving you’re helping your mind to break the link between that activity – such as drinking and smoking. You’re teaching yourself to be a non-smoker, one day and one habit at a time.

If you need a little more support, give the Quitline a call or request a Quitline callback. They can help you work out what to say and do in these situations. 

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