Ban helps heavy smokers to cut their drinking levels

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IT HAS tackled two vices for the price of one. The ban on lighting up north of the border has resulted in heavy-drinking smokers cutting back on alcohol.

A survey of 1,000 adults after the smoking ban was introduced found that Scots smokers who also enjoyed at least two drinks a day cut back by an average of six drinks a week. The research, carried out in America and Scotland, appears to dispel fears that Scots discouraged from pubs because of the smoking ban would consume more alcohol at home.

Sherry McKee, of Yale University, said: "Smokers who were moderate or heavy drinkers drank less in pubs following the ban.

"That is a benefit for public health in that it reduces the alcohol consumption of a category of people who are at most risk from disease. This is the first time it has been demonstrated that smoking bans have an affect on alcohol consumption."

The researchers examined drinking behaviour before and after the ban was introduced. A sample of 525 adults from Scotland made up of 309 smokers and 216 non-smokers was compared with a control group south of the border (534 people of whom 305 were smokers).

The group were interviewed before the ban was implemented in March 2006 and one year after its introduction.

Respondents were classified as abstainers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers. Moderate drinkers drank up to 14 drinks a week if they were male and seven drinks a week if they were female. Heavy drinkers exceeded those guidelines.

According to the study, moderate drinking smokers in Scotland reduced their alcohol consumption by four drinks a week. Heavy drinking smokers based in Scotland drank on average six fewer drinks in the pub per week.

Professor Gerard Hastings, of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research at Strathclyde University, who also helped to produce the research, said:

"An encouraging interpretation of these results is that what this legislation is doing is making people think about their health more – not just in terms of smoking, but also in terms of their alcohol intake."