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Young Smokers Have Higher Alcoholism Risk

Youngest smokers are at greatest risk

THURSDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Teenagers who smoke cigarettes are more likely to abuse alcohol than non-smoking teens, researchers report in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Richard A. Grucza, Ph.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and a colleague studied cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders in a nationally representative sample of 74,836 young people, aged 12 to 20, from 2002 through 2004.

The researchers found that 16 percent of the subjects were past-year smokers, defined as those who had smoked during the past year and smoked more than 100 cigarettes ever. Past-year smokers drank more than never-smokers, and were more likely to abuse alcohol than never-smokers who drank the same amount. The youngest smokers were at greatest risk.

Young smokers ran a 4.5 times greater risk of alcohol problems as never-smokers, while those who said they had smoked, but no more than 100 cigarettes during their lives, ran a medium-level alcohol use disorder risk. The contrast between smokers and non-smokers was most stark when both groups drank smaller amounts, the researchers report.

"The results are consistent with a higher vulnerability to alcohol use disorders among smokers, compared with non-smokers who drink equivalent quantities," the authors write.

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