Variations in markers of adolescent self-organization predict a range of economic and health-related outcomes in general population studies. Using a population-based birth cohort study we investigated associations between adolescent self-organization and two common factors over adulthood influencing health, smoking and alcohol consumption. The MRC National Survey of Health and Development (the British 1946 birth cohort) was used to test associations between a dimensional measure of adolescent self-organization derived from teacher ratings, and summary longitudinal measures of smoking and alcohol consumption over the ensuing five decades. Multinomial regression models were adjusted for sex, adolescent emotional and conduct problems, occupational social class of origin, childhood cognition, educational attainment and adult occupational social class. With all covariates adjusted, higher adolescent self-organization was associated with fewer smoking pack years, although not with quitting; there was no association with alcohol consumption across adulthood (none or heavy compared with light to moderate). Adolescent self-organization appears to be protective against smoking, but not against heavy alcohol consumption. Interpretation of this differential effect should be embedded in an understanding of the social and sociodemographic context in which these health behaviours occur over time.