Truly social drinkers can still drink alcohol without risk of smoking relapse--but being mentally prepared can be crucially important for them. They must go into ALL drinking situations reminding themselves that they are recovering nicotine addicts and that they are going to be recovering nicotine addicts for the rest of their lives.
While that may not sound great in concept--being a recovering nicotine addict--it sure beats being an actively using nicotine addict, hands down. For over time, being a recovering nicotine addict has no real signs or symptoms and no real adverse health or even social effects associated with it. Being an active user would actively be destroying tissue with every puff, depositing cancer-producing chemicals with every puff, assaulting your heart and circulatory system with every puff, costing you money with every puff, and making you reek with every puff.
It is important for these people to know that know that everything that they could do as smokers, they can also do as ex-smokers. They just have to teach themselves how. There are some things that new quitters are forced to learn early on like how to eat, sleep, use the washroom, breathe, etc. These are things that are required from day one for survival. So even though they may resist doing one of them, they can't resist for long and will thereby be forced to start to break the association to smoking early on.
Other things are sometimes put off and seen as unimportant to face early on. Tasks like doing housework, laundry, cleaning, brushing teeth, combing hair, or maybe even going to work and doing their jobs. While it is true that people won't die if they stop doing one or more of these activities for a day or two, putting off doing them too long will create a set of problems that can be quite annoying to those around them.
Besides threatening their livelihood and making them look like slobs in general, if carried on too long, it can really start to make them feel intimidated that they may never again be able to do these activities. Again, it must be repeated, everything a person did as a smoker they can also do as an ex-smoker--but they have to teach themselves how.
Now when it comes to areas of less importance like watching television, sports, playing cards, being a couch potato, and yes, even drinking with friends--things that are not necessary for survival and in fact, things that may not even be good for a person--well, the truth is people can do these things too as ex-smokers.
The same process is necessary though. They have to teach themselves how. Holding off too long can create a sense of intimidation, the feeling that they can never do the specific activity again. This simply is not the case. They will be able to get themselves back to their pre-quitting existence if they choose to.
Drinking is a special case because the association is so strong and by its very nature lowers their inhibitions. It can cause people to do some very irrational behaviors. Smoking can be one of them. Because of the drug's influence, it is best that people take it on gradually, in the beginning in a safe environment.
These people should probably limit themselves to one drink the first time out just to show themselves that they can have a drink without smoking. Also, they should do it with people who are non-smokers and who really are supportive of their quitting. This is a much safer situation in the beginning than going out with drinking buddies who smoke cigarettes and who may be a tad envious of their quitting, and who, while drinking themselves also have their inhibitions lowered. It may manifest in behaviors of encouragement of smoking at a time when the person is more vulnerable.
Soon ex-smokers will be able to face these environments too. Again it is best that they do it gradually, breaking some of the association and intimidation factors in the safer controlled environments. The fact is, though, for the rest of their lives they will need to keep their guard up, in a sense reminding themselves of their reasons for having quit and the importance to stay off smoking, every time before they go drinking. It prepares them to face the situation in a much safer state of readiness.
These people need to use timetables that they are comfortable with, but the sooner they take on activities like drinking the sooner that they will prove to themselves that life goes on without smoking.