Nondaily smoking and alcohol use, hazardous drinking, and alcohol diagnoses among young adults: findings from the NESARC

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2008 Dec;32(12):2081-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00796.x. Epub 2008 Sep 25.


Background: Nondaily smoking and heavy alcohol use are prevalent behaviors among young adults, with nondaily smoking occurring primarily in the context of alcohol use. Although the relationship between drinking and daily smoking has been well characterized in young adults, few epidemiological investigations have investigated the association between nondaily smoking and drinking behavior.

Methods: We examined Wave 1 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; Grant et al., 2003b; n = 43,093). Young adults (aged 18 to 25 years; n = 5,838) were stratified on current smoking behavior (daily, nondaily, and nonsmokers in the past 12 months) and differences in weekly quantity of alcohol use, frequency of alcohol use, frequency of binge drinking behavior, rates of NIAAA-defined hazardous drinking, and rates of DSM-IV alcohol diagnoses were investigated. College student status was examined.

Results: Twenty-five percent were current smokers and 7% were smoking on a nondaily basis. Seventy-one percent were current drinkers, 39% reported binge drinking at least once a month, 41% met criteria for hazardous drinking, and 18% had alcohol use disorders. Across all measures of alcohol use, there was a significant effect of smoking status, with daily smokers having greater alcohol use patterns, compared with nondaily smokers, with nonsmokers consuming the least. Nondaily smokers were more likely to report any binge drinking in the past 12 months. However, daily smokers were more likely to report daily binge drinking. With regard to hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorders, nondaily smoking conferred the greatest risk, followed by daily smoking with nonsmoking as the reference group. Multinomial logistic regression demonstrated that the odds of being a hazardous drinker were 16 times greater (95% CI 9.46-26.48) in a nondaily smoker compared with a nonsmoker, whereas the odds for a daily smoker were increased by 7-fold (95% CI 5.54-9.36). A similar pattern of results was demonstrated for DSM-IV alcohol diagnoses. No differences across college student status were observed.

Conclusions: The increased risk of hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorders conferred by nondaily smoking supports the findings that nondaily smoking and drinking are highly concomitant behaviors. Results such as these suggest that interventions disengaging alcohol and cigarette use patterns (e.g., smoking bans in alcohol venues) might serve to limit the occurrence of hazardous drinking among young adults at heightened risk for this behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Ethanol / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol