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The Alcohol-Cigarette Equivalency

The Alcohol-Cigarette Equivalency

Is drinking alcohol as dangerous as smoking? Find out from our experts.

In Paul Newman’s booze- and cigarette-laced performance in the 1982 film The Verdict, a man struggles to find a way out of his smoky, alcoholic haze. On and off the silver screen, smoking and alcohol often go together, since alcohol can be a trigger that makes you reach for a smoke, even if you’ve been abstaining for days or weeks.

The funny thing about alcohol and smoking, though—everyone knows smoking is bad for you. But alcohol? Well, in moderation it’s touted for its heart health benefits. So it’s harder for folks to imagine a few glasses of wine can do serious damage. In a recent survey of 2,100 adults, only 13 percent named cancer as a possible health risk associated with drinking, even though alcohol is directly linked to cancer of the larynx, esophagus, colorectum, liver and breast.

Still not convinced? Now a study published in BMC Public Health gives you the cigarette equivalent associated with drinking alcohol.

  • Guys drinking around a half a bottle of wine a day up their lifetime cancer risk (especially for colorectal cancers) as much as smoking eight cigarettes a week.
  • Gals drinking that much up their risk (especially for breast cancer) as much as smoking 23 cigs weekly.

So toast the bride and groom, celebrate your anniversary, have a glass of wine two or three times a week. But don’t think you can indulge with more than two drinks every day (or really any day) and not let an evil genie out of that bottle. To help monitor your drinking habits, track your alcohol intake on the Sharecare app for iOS and Android.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

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