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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Oct 1;132(3):688-93. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.03.018. Epub 2013 May 6.

Alcohol problems as a signal for sensitivity to nicotine dependence and future smoking.

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Department of Psychology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, United States. Electronic address:



Alcohol use is a well-documented risk factor for the emergence of chronic smoking behavior. Very little is known, however, about the mediating pathways through which alcohol and/or alcohol-related problems influence future smoking.


Data were drawn from the longitudinal Social and Emotional Contexts of Adolescent Smoking Patterns Study (SECASPS). Adolescents who had smoked under 100 cigarettes in their lifetime (n=898; experimenters) and adolescents who had smoked over 100 cigarettes, but fewer than 5 cigarettes per day (n=152: current smokers) were examined separately (grouping variable). Path analysis was performed to investigate the association between alcohol related problems at baseline (primary predictor) and smoking regularity at the 48 month follow-up (primary outcome), both directly and through mediating variables of smoking quantity and frequency, and nicotine dependence (averaged across these measures at 6-, 15-, and 24-month assessment waves).


Among experimenters, after controlling for smoking and alcohol use, the association between alcohol-related problems at baseline and smoking frequency 48 months later was fully mediated by nicotine dependence symptoms. Among current smokers, only past smoking behavior was associated with 48-month smoking frequency.


Alcohol-related problems are a risk factor for future smoking among novice adolescent smokers above and beyond drinking or smoking per se. By signaling sensitivity to nicotine dependence symptoms, alcohol related problems represent an easily measureable risk factor that can be used to identify and intervene with adolescents before more chronic smoking behaviors emerge.


Adolescents; Alcohol as risk factor; Alcohol problems; Nicotine dependence; SECASPS; Smoking; Social and Emotional Contexts of Adolescent Smoking Patterns Study

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