Smoking vs Drinking Alcohol: Which is Worse for Your Health?
Common Health Issues

Smoking vs Drinking Alcohol: Which is Worse for Your Health?

Smoking and drinking alcohol were once only considered matters of morals and one’s own consciousness. In this article, we will be showing you what science has discovered to date about the effect of these substances upon your body and their impact on your health.


Drinking Alcohol

Although generally considered a stimulant, alcohol is actually a depressant. It seems to lessen fatigue and make you energetic; it takes the brakes off certain processes. Even a small amount of alcohol lessens the inhibitions that normally govern our behavior. This makes us feel relieved and free.

Alcohol can be harmful in certain diseases. People who consider a drink of whiskey as the initial step in all first-aid treatment can therefore do a great deal of damage. For example, alcohol is definitely harmful in cases of stroke and snakebite.


Alcohol for the Normal, Healthy Individual

There is no firm evidence that moderate drinking will cause disease, injure health, or shorten the life of the normal adult. What is meant by moderate drinking? There are no specific limits, because the amount that different people can tolerate varies considerably. Most doctors would describe the moderate drinker as one who takes one or two drinks a day—a few glasses of wine or beer during the course of several hours.


To the moderate drinker, alcoholic beverages are taken for relaxation, never as a constant necessity. The moderate drinker does not become intoxicated. Yet even under these relaxed, pleasurable circumstances, there may be some impairment of judgment or coordination. There are people who ought not to drive a car after sipping even a small glass of wine.


Excessive Drinking

By excessive drinking, we mean drinking to the point where it interferes with one’s job, one’s family life and one’s relationship to society. Some degree of intoxication is the inevitable result of drinking alcohol. That is its pharmacological action. And most people are able to determine for themselves just how much is enough.

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However, alcohol affects judgment just when discretion is most needed. Intoxication can be simply unpleasant in a social gathering. Excessive drinkers are also inevitable bores; with their judgement and perception gone awry, they have not much sense of what they are saying or how often they may have already said it. But this phenomenon is minor compared to the danger that exists when an intoxicated person has to assume responsibilities he is incapable of fulfilling, such as driving a car.


Excessive drinkers create other problems for themselves. They often fail to eat properly and otherwise neglect the rules of good health thereby suffering from illnesses as an indirect consequence of their drinking. For example, it has been shown that cancer of the mouth can be associated with heavy drinking.


The Chronic Alcoholic

There are some people to whom drinking too much comes easily. They depend on alcohol as a drug. It is now thought that there may be a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. The individual who has evidence of alcoholism in his or her family would do well to be cautious about drinking. 

Once alcoholism has become established, it is extremely difficult to overcome without help. It leads to damage throughout the body and especially the liver. The brain is affected as well. You should be on guard if you begin to use alcohol for any purpose but the social pleasures with which it is most commonly associated.

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Chronic Alcoholism—A Disease

Every responsible medical organization has defined alcoholism as a disease. If you have a question relating to the use of alcohol by yourself or someone close to you, remember that it is a serious medical problem. Avoiding action may result in many social problems and possibly, further sickness, even death. A doctor will treat this problem sympathetically, but professionally.


Alcoholism cannot be handled solely by a loving family, an attentive spouse or helpful neighbors. It is a disease. The afflicted person needs experienced care.

You may wish to consult organizations that focus on helping alcoholics. Some of these associations are Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety etc. These organizations can direct you to treatment facilities in your area and send you other helpful information about available assistance.

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In recent years, an increasing number of scientific studies have shown that cigarette smokers have significantly poorer health than non-smokers, and that they die at an earlier age. A heavy smoker (two or more packs a day) is 20 times more likely than a non-smoker to have Lung Cancer.


The degree of risk is related to how much a person smokes. Emphysema, bronchitis, heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and a long list of other disabling conditions occur with increased frequency among cigarette smokers.

Tobacco smoke contains a substantial list of cancer-producing and noxious ingredients. Among these are nicotine, carbon monoxide, ammonia and a variety of harmful substances called tars. Many of these substances are present in chewing tobacco and snuff as well as in the smoke.

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Smokers Cough

Many smokers awaken in the morning to violent coughing. That is the result of an irritated throat and larynx, and there is no medication that can prevent it. The smoke from cigarettes is a very potent abrasive, and the damage cannot be avoided as long as he sufferer continues to smoke.

If a sore throat accompanies the coughing, the pain can be relieved somewhat by gargling with a third of a glassful of water in which two aspirin tablets have been dissolved. Swallow a small amount of the thick suspension; aspirin is a mild local anesthetic and helps to soothe the irritated mucous membranes. 


If the solution gags you--- and it may, especially in the morning when you are most in need of relief—try plain warm water as a gargle, or chewing gum followed by a soothing throat lozenge. Avoid breathing through the mouth.

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The most sensible treatment, of course, is to stop smoking, or at least to cut down on it drastically.


How to Stop Smoking

There are millions of people who once smoked as many as four pack of cigarettes a day and now do not smoke at all. 

Here are some suggestions as to how to rid yourself of this harmful habit:

  1. Write down your reasons for wanting to stop smoking and make a list of your reasons for continuing to smoke
  2. Change to a low-tar/low-nicotine brand
  3. Select a date to quit. Give yourself plenty of time—five or six weeks if you feel you need it.
  4. Chart your smoking habits for two weeks. The simplest way is to wrap a piece of paper around your pack of cigarettes and mark it whenever you take a cigarette. Make a special note of the cigarettes that are most important to you (those immediately after meals, for example), the ones that are least important (perhaps those smoked while driving to work) and the one that taste especially good to you (the first of the day, for instance)
  5. Each night, repeat at least 10 times one of your reason for not smoking
  6. Eliminate at least one cigarette from your routine—the one you found you desired least (or most)
  7. Quit on the day you selected—and keep very busy. Go to movies, take long walks and exercise.

Give yourself plenty of substitutes for smoking: water, gum, raising, carrots, apples etc. 

Start a new activity if you need to, such as jogging, swimming, painting—something to involve your attention and hands.

Don’t be discouraged. If you don’t make it the first time, try again. Many ex-smokers quit many times before finally succeeding.

It is possible that you will gain weight when you stop smoking. Don’t worry about it. When your body has adjusted to its new, healthful way of life, you will be able to get down to the proper size and shape.

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There is nothing unhealthy about taking one, or even two, average-strength drinks of alcohol per day. Taken this way, alcohol can serve as a relaxant and as a stimulant to the appetite. However, excessive indulgence in alcohol can produce the chronic condition known as Alcoholism.


Smoking has no safe level of consumption and it has been shown or verified that smokers have significantly poorer health than nonsmokers.


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Sources and References

Cancer Progress and Priorities: Lung Cancer by Matthew Schabath and Michele Cote

Alcohol: Intoxication and Poisoning - Diagnosis and Treatment by Young-Chul Jung and Kee Namkoong

A Safe Level of Alcohol Consumption: The Right Answer Demands The Right Question by K J Mukamal

Reader’s Digest Family Health Guide and Medical Encyclopedia: A Guide to Good Health

Alcoholic Disease: Liver and Beyond by Alba Rocco, Debora Compare et al

Mortality in Relation to Smoking: 50 Years' Observations on Male British Doctors by Richard Doll, Richard Peto et al 

The Natural History of Efforts to Stop Smoking: A Prospective Cohort Study by John Hughes, Laura Solomon et al

A Review of The Relationship Between Alcohol and Oral Cancer by J Reidy, E McHugh and L Stassen 


Rich Health Editorial Team

Health Research

Rich Health Editorial Team is made up of medical practitioners and experienced writers who provide information for dealing with health issues in a simple and easy-to-understand manner