How Many Cigarettes Are In A Bottle of Wine?

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Well, none of course. But a new study suggests that drinking a bottle of wine is the equivalent of smoking 10 cigarettes. Well that’s a way to reframe things.

“A study recently published in the journal BMC Public Health shows that drinking one bottle of wine per week is equivalent to smoking five cigarettes for men and 10 cigarettes for women in the same period ― at least as far as cancer risk is concerned.

Researchers from the United Kingdom found that, in a group of nonsmokers, drinking one weekly bottle of wine is associated with a 1 percent increase in lifetime cancer risk for men and a 1.4 percent increase for women, Live Science reported. The study authors used available U.K. population and health data as well as data on tobacco-related cancers and alcohol-related cancers to arrive at their results.

The goal of the study was to help people better understand alcohol as a risk factor for developing cancer by quantifying it. Many people still aren’t aware of alcohol’s link to the disease, according to the researchers

‘Our estimation of a cigarette equivalent for alcohol provides a useful measure for communicating possible cancer risks that exploits successful historical messaging on smoking,” lead study author Theresa Hydes said in a statement. ‘We hope that by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices.’.” - Study Suggests Bottle of Wine Equals The Risk of 10 Cigarettes

I’ll let the scientists and policy makers hash out the data, but the point is: when you think of drinking wine in this light, it makes messages that equate wine with health seem pretty contradictory. Just like smoking used to be equated with relaxing, winding down, and even the good life … will alcohol one day be regarded in the same way? I’m not sure, but the tides are beginning to shift, as more people begin to look at the truth. It’s tough to look at. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to read stories like this when I was drinking.

I would have looked the other way.

Said, “Let me have my one vice.”

And thought, “Science be damned. I want my ‘glass of wine at dinner.’”

(Only I didn’t have one glass of wine at dinner. (Rising drinking rates among women suggest I’m not the only one.)

To some, it might not matter still. But it’s en eye opener, particularly in thinking about how we frame alcohol in women’s lifestyle media. In other words, would we substitute 10 cigarettes for an image of wine here?

Something to consider when you think about words and images around alcohol, particularly when something is for sale. And even more so when the selling relates to heath and wellness.

Also, it’s important to note — this is not about blame or judgement. Smoking? Yeah, I used to do that too. It’s about reframing the story, and pushing back on the narrative that many of us have bought for too long, myself included.

Erin Street