Alcohol is as bad as tobacco

  • #1
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http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/320/5878/862.pdf

Then came WHO’s World Health Report
2002. Drawing on various studies, including
WHO’s Global Burden of Disease project,
the report concluded that alcohol was
the fifth leading cause of death and disability
worldwide. It beat out sanitation problems
and high cholesterol and ranked just
behind malnutrition and unsafe sex. Alcohol
was as dangerous as tobacco, the report
found—the source of up to 30% of various
cancers and neurological disorders, and it
had significant secondary dangers as well,
leading to high rates of spousal abuse and
homicide. Most devastating, however, was
the conclusion that alcohol was the top
cause of ill health and premature death in
several developing countries, such as Brazil
and Indonesia
, and that—thanks to rising
incomes—things were only going to get
worse.

Finally someone is calling out alcohol when tobacco has been pretty much getting all of the heat.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
mgb_phys
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Yes, but you chaps tried prohibiting alcohol and it caused all sorts of problems. So we are limiting it to prohibiting drugs to avoid all that organised crime.
 
  • #3
NoTime
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So we are limiting it to prohibiting drugs to avoid all that organised crime.
:rofl: What color is the sky on your planet.
 
  • #4
:rofl: I won't get into my "drugs should be regulated, not criminalized" speech again. but I'm always baffled at the fact that nobody seems to notice or bring up that obvious pattern... or is it one of them elephants in the room type thing.
 
  • #5
russ_watters
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http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/320/5878/862.pdf

Finally someone is calling out alcohol when tobacco has been pretty much getting all of the heat.
What makes alcohol different is that there is such a thing as a safe dose. The same is not true for cigarettes. Yes, it's true, lots of people abuse alcohol. But a few beers at a bar once a week is not unsafe - a few cigarettes while drinking those beers is.
 
  • #6
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What makes alcohol different is that there is such a thing as a safe dose. The same is not true for cigarettes. Yes, it's true, lots of people abuse alcohol. But a few beers at a bar once a week is not unsafe - a few cigarettes while drinking those beers is.
True, however, there is much much less stigma attached to drinking than smoking. Why? Clearly millions and millions of people in the world don't drink a safe amount.
 
  • #7
mgb_phys
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alcohol different is that there is such a thing as a safe dose. .... But a few beers at a bar once a week is not unsafe
In fact quite the opposite - it looks like a glass of wine a day is BETTER for you than nothing. So you have an unsafe minimum dose as well as an unsafe maximum!
 
  • #8
Moonbear
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True, however, there is much much less stigma attached to drinking than smoking. Why? Clearly millions and millions of people in the world don't drink a safe amount.
We've had this discussion a million times before. The only reason people really get upset about smoking is that it isn't confined to just the person who chooses to indulge in it. Smoke is inhaled by everyone around the smoker, alcohol isn't. For example, I went out after work for a drink. One member of our group doesn't drink, so had a soda. He was not going to get second-hand alcohol from any of us drinking around him. If one of us had decided to smoke, however, everyone at the table would have been inhaling it, even if we didn't want to.

There are also studies that suggest the occasional drink of alcohol may be beneficial. There is no such beneficial low dose of cigarette smoke. Even low doses are harmful, and it's a cumulative effect.
 
  • #9
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after two heart attacks my family doctor told me dad to drink three glasses of red wine a night!! :bugeye:
 
  • #10
My grandfather started drinking beer to help his heart problems. I had never seen the man drink a drop before then one day I found him sipping a budweiser and acting alot happier than usual.
 
  • #11
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If you can regulate your dosage, then you should be fine. I don't really drink alcohol myself however.
 
  • #12
quadraphonics
But a few beers at a bar once a week is not unsafe - a few cigarettes while drinking those beers is.
I don't believe that's true. All those studies showing how bad smoking is for you assume that someone is a pack-a-day smoker for years on end. I've never seen any scientific evidence that having a few cigarettes a week has a significant health impact. In fact, a prof back in college told our class very explicitly that such behavior was not particularly unhealthy.
 
  • #13
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The difference with cigarettes though is that in small-dosages compared to beer, it has a much worse effect on you.

A glass of wine for example, is good for you. Smoking 1-2 cigarettes won't do any long term damage to your body, or severe short-term damage, but it sure isn't healthy at all in any way.
 
  • #14
Ivan Seeking
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There is no such thing as a safe dose of alcohol for people prone to alcoholism. And even then it is still basically poison, just like cigarettes. And like alcohol, it seems that cigarettes do have benefits - recently there was a report showing that certain disease occur less in smokers than non-smokers. The most obvious benefit is reduced weight. It is common for smokers who quit to gain ten or twenty pounds.

And if you want to talk about effecting others, at least smokers won't drive on the wrong side of the road or puke on my shoes.

I've known two people who died from smoking related diseases, but I've known probably a dozen families that were tortured by alcohol abuse.
 
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  • #15
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True, however, there is much much less stigma attached to drinking than smoking. Why? Clearly millions and millions of people in the world don't drink a safe amount.
I think Russ addressed this in his earlier post. Alcohol in moderation has no negative effects on the body. There's no such thing as moderate smoking of tobacco-based cigarettes. Yes, millions of people in the world abuse alcohol. But millions also abuse firearms, drugs (the kinds with legitimate medical purposes), food, etc., and none of these things are viewed as intrinsically bad for you. The point here is that alcohol can be used safely. Cigarettes cannot. It is possible to consume alcohol regularly without developing any physical addiction. Cigarettes, on the other hand, will always result in physical addiction when smoked regularly. This, I think, is one reason that there is a stigma attached to cigarettes.

I don't believe that's true. All those studies showing how bad smoking is for you assume that someone is a pack-a-day smoker for years on end. I've never seen any scientific evidence that having a few cigarettes a week has a significant health impact. In fact, a prof back in college told our class very explicitly that such behavior was not particularly unhealthy.
If I may ask, what was this professor's research area? I'm rather surprised he would say this. Technically he's not incorrect; smoking a few cigarettes a week would not be "particularly" unhealthy. To first order we could probably say that the health risk posed by cigarette smoking goes linearly with the frequency of smoking. As such, a very small frequency of smoking would result in a very small health risk. Alcohol, on the other hand, is perhaps best modelled by a step function. The point is that there is some maximum amount of alcohol that can be consumed without any health risk, whereas cigarette smoking is always accompanied by a proportional health risk. It seems to me that it is very irresponsible to liken moderate alcohol consumption to "moderate" smoking.
 
  • #16
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There is no such thing as a safe dose of alcohol for people prone to alcoholism. And even then it is still basically poison, just like cigarettes. And like alcohol, it seems that cigarettes do have benefits - recently there was a report showing that certain disease occur less in smokers than non-smokers. The most obvious benefit is reduced weight. It is common for smokers who quit to gain ten or twenty pounds.

And if you want to talk about effecting others, at least smokers won't drive on the wrong side of the road or puke on my shoes.

I've known two people who died from smoking related diseases, but I've known probably a dozen families that were tortured by alcohol abuse.
Link to that disease that is helped by smoking.

I agree. Yes smoking is bad, but at least it's not a link to one of the highest killers (in the US at least) - drunk driving.

Of course there is no "safe-dosage" though if you're talking about a person who is prone to substance abuse.
 
  • #17
russ_watters
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There is no such thing as a safe dose of alcohol for people prone to alcoholism.
There is no such thing as a safe dose of peanuts for a person who is allergic to peanuts.

[edit] Actually, peanuts aren't really a good analogy because it is actually true that one peanut can kill a person with a peanut allergy. I know what you meant (one beer can lead to more beers for a person addicted to alcohol), but the way you said it is just plain not true. It isn't the one beer (followed by driving) that constitutes drunk driving, it is the 11 beers that follow the first one. It isn't the one beer that destroys your liver, it is the 11 that follow (and the 12 the next day and the 12 the next day...).

A better, but still tougher analogy to the way you put it would be a food addiction. For someone addicted to food, there is no safe dose of food (again, only insofar as you can't eat just one Dorito). That makes a food addiction tougher to deal with because a person addicted to food can't simply quit completely. They have to face their addiction head-on, every day.
 
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  • #18
vanesch
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He was not going to get second-hand alcohol from any of us drinking around him.
That depends of course on the quantities drunk by the others. From the moment that the air they exhale contains more than 5% ethanol, this might not be true anymore :rofl:
 
  • #19
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I decided to put this thing to a simple test. I started smoking and drinking to see which is worse. First, I had to decide what to drink. Sometimes I like to have a beer, but other times wine is better. I figured what the heck, six of one, half a dozen of the other. This clearly was a mistake because I had forgotten to buy the materials for the other half of the test. When I realized what the situation was, I staggered out the car to drive over to the tobacconist. There were two tobacco shops now where there used to be one, a sign of the improving economy. I grabbed onto the one while entering the other. Now another problem faced me. Should I get cigars, cigarettes, or cigarillos. I went for the cigarettes since I can more of them in my mouth at one time that way. The clerk gave me a pack of matches and I was set for the second part of the experiment. The next part is a little fuzzy in my memory, but somehow, I got back home and started lighting up. The way cigarettes are designed, it is quite difficult to light them with one hand while trying to steady the room with the other. As a result, I missed the cigarettes entirely and instead set fire to the drapes. As you might expect, my wife and kids came out to complain about all the second hand smoke. And to make things worse, the fire detectors started to go off at this most inconvenient time. You know as well as I do that when your house is burning, you're not supposed to try and save your possessions, just get out. For example my wife, fool that she is, went to the kitchen to get her precious rolling pin, which had tragic consequences.

Conclusion: Inconclusive. However, an angry wife is more dangerous than either tobacco or liquor.
 
  • #20
BobG
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We've had this discussion a million times before. The only reason people really get upset about smoking is that it isn't confined to just the person who chooses to indulge in it. Smoke is inhaled by everyone around the smoker, alcohol isn't. For example, I went out after work for a drink. One member of our group doesn't drink, so had a soda. He was not going to get second-hand alcohol from any of us drinking around him. If one of us had decided to smoke, however, everyone at the table would have been inhaling it, even if we didn't want to.
You can suffer second-hand alcohol effects from alcohol even if you haven't come within miles of the bar the drinker had his drinks in. Eventually, a problem drinker can wind up on the same road as you. The only way to avoid the risk is to avoid driving at the times when drunk drivers are most likely to be on the road.

The real reason for the difference is that it's more unpleasant for a non-smoker to be around cigarette smoke. A valid enough reason to not want to be around cigarette smoke, and the health reasons are even true. I just wouldn't consider smoking bans to rate a very high priority.
 
  • #21
Moonbear
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You can suffer second-hand alcohol effects from alcohol even if you haven't come within miles of the bar the drinker had his drinks in. Eventually, a problem drinker can wind up on the same road as you. The only way to avoid the risk is to avoid driving at the times when drunk drivers are most likely to be on the road.
Two separate issues. One is the unsafe exposure to smoke no matter how much others have to smoke. The other is a secondary action taken by those who have consumed too much alcohol. It's not a direct effect of the alcohol, it's the combined effect of getting into a car after consuming too much. There is just as much of a stigma attached to drinking and driving as there is to smoking in public. This is why drunk driving has penalties attached, but drinking a beer and catching a cab home does not. Consuming alcohol does not require getting in a car afterward and driving while drunk. That is a separate action.

If you walk into a bar and everyone has ONE drink around you and you choose not to have anything but water, you will suffer no ill effects of their alcohol consumption. If you walk into a bar and everyone has ONE cigarette around you, you will be exposed to a LOT of cigarettes in one sitting regardless of your choice not to smoke, and will suffer the cumulative effects of that exposure the same as the smoker on the other side of those cigarettes.

The real reason for the difference is that it's more unpleasant for a non-smoker to be around cigarette smoke. A valid enough reason to not want to be around cigarette smoke, and the health reasons are even true. I just wouldn't consider smoking bans to rate a very high priority.
Unpleasant and unhealthy. The issue is that the smoker takes away the non-smoker's choice not to inhale cigarette smoke. The drinker doesn't take away the non-drinker's choice to not consume alcohol. Unpleasantness isn't the issue, it's taking away one's choice not to consume or inhale a substance. It's unpleasant to be around a sloppy drunk too, but that person's drinking doesn't force you to drink.
 
  • #22
mgb_phys
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Eventually, a problem drinker can wind up on the same road as you. The only way to avoid the risk is to avoid driving at the times when drunk drivers are most likely to be on the road.
Suggesting that there isn't a safe dose for driving?
 
  • #23
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In fact quite the opposite - it looks like a glass of wine a day is BETTER for you than nothing. So you have an unsafe minimum dose as well as an unsafe maximum!
Yeah, but it isn't because of the ethanol in wine, but the other things in it like polyphenols. Ethanol by itself has shown to have almost no positive health effects, and the studies that do try to show a link between ethanol and cardiovascular protective benefits are weak at best. If you want the same health benefits that you would get from a glass of wine drink grape juice. There is a reason why pretty much NO doctor will recommend someone who rarely ever or doesn't drink at all to start drinking to stave off certain diseases.
 
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  • #24
russ_watters
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Suggesting that there isn't a safe dose for driving?
There certainly isn't any safe dose of driving. Most accidents, in fact, happen within a few miles of home.
 
  • #25
*Shakes head* Not this again. I simply do not understand why everyone thinks smoking is so harmless and great. A typical talking point is marijuana. Everyone says "oh marijuana is so great, no one dies from it blah blah blah." By the time they're done they're foaming from the mouth in ecstasy.
 

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