Medical Q&As

Smoking and alcohol - health effects?

I'm a 33-year-old male. I smoke and like a drink. What sort of health problems should I be aware of at this age in relation to my smoking and drinking?

Drinking alcohol and smoking both have significant health risks. However, the general consensus is that if alcohol consumption is contained within certain limits there may be some health benefits and the alcohol can be enjoyed without fearing negative health consequences. The suggested maximum drinking limit per week is 21 units for men and 14 units for women. A unit of alcohol is defined as a half pint of beer, a single measure of spirits or a glass of wine. This advice has been further modified by suggesting that the daily maximum allowance should be 4 units per day for a man and 3 units a day for a woman. This modification was introduced to deter people from saving up their weekly allowance and imbibing it all in the one session at the weekend. The main message I want to give you is that if you keep your alcohol consumption within these limits you can continue to drink on a regular basis without harming your health. However, no such latitude exists with regard to smoking. If you smoke only one cigarette per day you are putting yourself at risk of developing a smoking related illness. That risk increases depending on the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the period of time that you continue to smoke for. In other words it is the accumulated level of smoking over an extended period of time that ultimately determines the level of risk. One thing is clear from the medical evidence; people who smoke eventually die from smoking related diseases. At 33 years of age you are probably not experiencing any symptoms from your smoking or drinking but if you have been smoking since your teens changes have undoubtedly taken place in your lungs at this stage. As you continue to smoke those changes will increase and the outcome for your lungs is that you could ultimately develop chronic bronchitis or even lung cancer. It is estimated that if people didnít smoke we would have no more than a few dozen deaths per annum from lung cancer in Ireland. I would suggest that rather than waiting to develop symptoms before considering changing your behaviour you could save yourself a lot of trouble by making changes now. With regard to the health consequences of smoking the list of possible negative health effects is extensive with virtually no system of the body being immune to being damaged. If you would like to explore this subject further you might like to read our feature on the consequences of smoking. The various links on that page will enable you to explore the subject in considerable depth. The information can be accessed at: http://www.irishhealth.com/index.html?level=4&id=1939