Smoking and hazardous drinking are common and important risk factors for an increased rate of complications after surgery. The underlying pathophysiological mechanisms include organic dysfunctions that can recover with abstinence. Abstinence starting 3-8 weeks before surgery will significantly reduce the incidence of several serious postoperative complications, such as wound and cardiopulmonary complications and infections. However, this intervention must be intensive to obtain sufficient effect on surgical complications. All patients presenting for surgery should be questioned regarding smoking and hazardous drinking, and interventions appropriate for the surgical setting applied.