Alcohol and smoking


Experts recommend that young people under 18 avoid alcohol completely. However, by the time you finish secondary school, it is likely that you, or someone you know, will have experimented with alcohol. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Ireland and although it is a legal drug, it doesn’t mean it’s less powerful than other drugs. It’s important to know how alcohol affects your general health and how it might affect your disability.

It may:

  • affect your co-ordination, putting you at risk of falls and injury
  • increase the risk of seizures if you have epilepsy
  • affect medications you take
  • affect your mood and emotions
  • affect your memory
  • affect your ability to make good decisions
  • cause nausea or vomiting

It’s OK to say no

If you have decided that you don’t want to drink, be confident in saying no. Sometimes it can be hard to say no to alcohol, especially in situations where everyone else is doing it. Some things you could say include: “I’m OK thanks, I think I will stick with my Coke.” or “Thanks for the offer but I’m going to keep an eye on my friend.” If you’re going on a night out where alcohol is on offer and you’re trying not to drink, try a non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic cocktail instead. They look the same so no one will know the difference.

If you decide to drink, you can minimise its affect on you by:

  • eating before and while drinking,
  • drinking water after every alcoholic drink,
  • finishing your drink before topping it up,
  • drinking slowly,
  • knowing your limits,
  • having days and weekends without drinking.


Smoking (cigarettes and vaping) is unhealthy for you and should be avoided. Cigarettes contain many chemicals like nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide which are highly addictive and poisonous to the body. Smoking gives you bad breath, wrinkles, smelly clothes and hair, and stained teeth. In the long run, it can lead to serious health problems like breathing issues, cancer, and heart disease.

You can talk to your doctor or health professional about things like smoking and alcohol. They can tell you how these things affect people your age and help you think through how to stay safe and healthy. You could also check with your pharmacist or doctor about medication interactions. The advice may change with different levels of medications that you may be taking.

Maybe you have questions like these:

  • Don’t most people my age try alcohol?
  • Is vaping better than smoking cigarettes?
  • Is there anything I should know about the effects of smoking or alcohol on my disability?

You don’t have to wait for your health professional to bring up these topics — or other topics you’re curious about. You can just ask. You can learn a lot by asking questions. Your health professional is prepared to talk with you about it.

Useful resources

Visit Spunout for information on smoking and alcohol.

>>Go to next section: The new health service