Tobacco chippers show robust increases in smoking urge after alcohol consumption
Objective and rationale
Heavy social drinkers often engage in occasional cigarette smoking, especially in the context of consuming large quantities of alcohol. The current study assessed alcohol’s effects on smoking urge as a function of alcohol dose and time course in tobacco chippers with heavy social drinking patterns.
The study assessed 39 chippers who underwent three separate evening sessions. Each subject received a placebo (1% volume alcohol as a taste mask), a low alcohol dose (two to three drinks equivalent), and a high alcohol dose (four to five drinks equivalent) in random order. No smoking was permitted during the sessions and the participants were abstinent from smoking for at least 3 h before arrival. Throughout the session, cigarette craving was assessed by the Brief Questionnaire of Smoking Urges and alcohol response was assessed by the Biphasic Alcohol Effects Scale (BAES).
The results showed that alcohol significantly increased cigarette craving in a dose-dependent manner (p<0.001). At the high alcohol dose, craving was heightened during the rising portion of the blood alcohol curve (BAC). There was a strong relationship between BAC and craving for positive reinforcement and this relationship was partially mediated by BAES stimulation, but not sedation.
The findings show that alcohol directly increases smoking urge in chipper smokers. Tobacco chippers may crave cigarettes more during heavier than during lighter drinking bouts, and this effect appears to be driven by heightened stimulation levels rather than as a means to offset alcohol’s sedative effects.