Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fags and booze

I've never been a cigarette smoker, but I do like a pint or two and I know my limits when it comes to booze. I've never been a big drinker, but once upon a time I would have been out every night of the week and more often than not I'd spend the evening in a pub with my mates. As I got older I tended to do this less and less until I reached the point where, as a married man with two kids, my evenings out with my mates are restricted to once or twice a month.

Last night was one of those nights and I met up with a couple of guys I hadn't seen for quite a few years. One of those was a chap who used to be a heavy smoker, but after spending the last 10 years living and working in California he has since given up the fags and gained about five stone. It's not hard to see why.

When I used to see him regularly before he went to the USA he would drink, at most, about five pints in a night while smoking the best part of a packet of cigarettes. Last night I watched him put away eight pints of premium strength lager in three hours before staggering out of the pub. I was a little surprised to see him downing so much so I asked him why - and he told me that he tends to drink faster since he quit smoking.

Perhaps I've inadvertently stumbled across a link between the rise in binge drinking and the decline of cigarette smoking? If my mate is typical of cigarette smokers then it would seem that having a few fags with your beer moderates the intake of alcohol - and drinking less alcohol tends to make one less drunk.

And with the cost of a pint of beer what it is today it makes economic sense too - with three extra pints costing close to £9 compared with around a fiver for a packet of cigarettes. I don't know, but it's a thought isn't it?

One thing is certain - nobody wanders out of a pub and gets into a fight because they've had one too many cigarettes.


bernard said...

Very interested to read about your 'law of unintended consequences' and smoking, Stan. Very plausible.
As an adjunct, I would add that a cigarette is a social 'anchor' and focal point whilst drinking a pint. It is a ritual that smooths out social intercourse while giving those all-important hands something to do. Without the fag, the pint becomes the attention and the hands wrap themselves around it. At least that's what I've noticed.
I don't think it makes anyone drink more, or drink less. It is just that the centuries-old, dual habit of combining the two is broken, and the social ambiance is less conducive towards companionship and ease, so pubs are less frequented because of that.
I think binge drinking is something else entirely.

Stan said...

I dunno bernard - the only thing I smoke is the odd cigar after a bloody good blow out combined with a fine Napoleon brandy. For me that was the height of civilised social interaction and something I've missed since they banned smoking in public places - I'm only going on what my mate told me ... that not smoking tends to make him drink faster and so he drinks more.