BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVES The association between tobacco and alcohol use behaviours has not been explored in India. This study reports on the co-occurrence of tobacco and alcohol use in a representative general population in metropolis Delhi at two points of time a year apart. METHODS Matched data on 10,312 individuals from 2937 households above the age of 10 yr were available for survey I and survey II. Among them 5414 were males and 4898 females. The subjects were interviewed by non clinical staff using a structured proforma based on DSM III R criteria on the use of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and opioids. RESULTS Among women, use of only tobacco was reported. Among males, the prevalence of use of 'only tobacco', 'only alcohol' and concurrent smoking and drinking was 18.1, 3.3 and 9.6 per cent respectively. Concurrent use was higher in the age group 31-40 yr and dependence higher in the 41-50 yr age group. Both at surveys I and II current smokers had higher percentage of alcohol drinkers compared to tobacco abstainers; dependent smokers had higher percentage of dependent drinkers. The use of alcohol at survey II was higher among tobacco smokers compared to tobacco abstainers identified at survey I (OR = 5.77, 95% CI 4.3-7.7). INTERPRETATION & CONCLUSION Our results demonstrate a positive correlation between smoking and drinking. The findings lend support to existing evidence suggesting associations between tobacco and alcohol use. Smoking proved to be a powerful predictor of alcohol use. It is suggested that professionals who treat alcoholism should pursue the cessation of smoking among their patients.