Clinical observation has defined the medical profile of alcoholic pancreatitis, but its low incidence and prevalence has limited characterizing the disease at a population level, the contribution of environmental exposures, and a clear picture of its natural history. Recent studies have defined the impact of alcohol use and smoking on disease risk, and a threshold for alcohol consumption has been identified. Recurrent attacks of acute pancreatitis have been linked with continued alcohol consumption, and aggressive alcohol intervention has been shown to decrease recurrence. Progression from alcoholic acute pancreatitis to chronic pancreatitis is now believed to occur infrequently, and factors associated with progression have been identified. Alcoholic pancreatitis reduces lifespan in these patients, and the economic impact of pancreatitis is substantial. Efforts are needed to increase awareness of the impact of alcohol consumption and smoking on risk for pancreatitis and the benefits of cessation for primary and secondary prevention.