Smoking and drinking among college students: "it's a package deal"

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Jan 1;106(1):16-20. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.07.025. Epub 2009 Sep 16.


Background: This paper reports on qualitative research on smoking in contexts associated with drinking among college students. Although a plethora of survey research has shown a positive association between smoking and alcohol use, little attention has been given to the utility functions of these co-occurring behaviors.

Methods: Data are drawn from semi-structured interviews with college freshmen at a large Mid-western university in the U.S. (n=35). In addition, eleven focus groups with fraternity and sorority members were conducted (n=70). Interviews and focus groups focused on a range of issues including current smoking behavior, reasons for smoking, and smoking and drinking.

Results: A review of qualitative responses reveals that smoking served multiple utility functions for this population including (1) facilitating social interaction across gender, (2) allowing one to structure time and space at a party, (3) enabling "party" smokers to smoke with fewer negative side effects, and (4) helping to calm one down when drunk.

Conclusions: Whereas smoking was stigmatized during the context of one's everyday life as a student, at parties while consuming alcohol, smoking was viewed as normative and socially acceptable. Preventive interventions are needed on college campus that target co-substance use and address widespread misperceptions about the harm of tobacco use and addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Attitude
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment
  • Social Facilitation
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires