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New research will explore ways to help heavy drinkers quit smoking

Researchers at the Schroeder Institute® for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at Truth Initiative have been awarded a grant from Brown University and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and test a program to help heavy drinkers quit smoking.

Amy Cohn, Ph.D. and Amanda Graham, Ph.D. will serve as co-investigators on the grant in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Rhode Island and the Yale School of Medicine. The research will expand BecomeAnEX, Truth Initiative’s web-based program to help smokers quit, to specifically meet the needs of smokers who are also heavy drinkers.

It is widely recognized that drinking and smoking “go together” but smoking is especially common among heavy drinkers. Forty-three percent of daily smokers in the United States engage in heavy drinking. By comparison, 19 percent of people who have never smoked and 22 percent of former smokers engage in heavy drinking. Heavy drinkers are also more likely to smoke.

The combination of heavy drinking and smoking is associated with increased cancer risk, greater nicotine dependence, and lower success at quitting smoking. More than 40 percent of smoking lapses experienced by heavy drinkers involve alcohol, and the risk of a smoking relapse is four times greater for heavy drinkers on days they are drinking.  

The purpose of this new research study is to adapt an existing evidence-based smoking cessation intervention for heavy drinking smokers and incorporate it into BecomeAnEX. Thousands of smokers use BecomeAnEX each year, making it an efficient channel to disseminate this kind of targeted intervention. This work could significantly improve public health by simultaneously increasing smoking cessation and reducing heavy drinking.