Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Smoking and Social Disadvantage

Just in case one needed yet another good reason to join the fight against smoking...The latest issue of Journal of Public Health has an interesting study entitled "Smoking Cessation and Financial Stress". Here is a sample:

By examining the effect of long-term cessation on financial stress, the study contributes to the growing research on the effect of smoking on social disadvantage and inequality. A recent article based on a survey of a population-based sample from the US, UK, Canada and Australia showed that between one-fifth and one-third of respondents reported to have spent money on cigarettes that they ‘knew would be better spent on household essentials like food’. It was also shown that there is a social gradient in this phenomenon, such that lower income smokers are notably more likely to experience ‘smoking-induced deprivation’ than their well to do counterparts. Thus, campaigns and interventions to encourage smoking cessation among disadvantaged groups are likely to enhance their material conditions and standards of living.

Given recent findings that smoking substantially contributes to socio-economic differentials in mortality in Australia and elsewhere, policies that aim to reduce smoking prevalence among disadvantaged groups are not only likely to benefit the health and financial well-being of these groups, but reduce societal level health inequalities. As such, tobacco control strategies targeting these groups can be viewed as social policy. This indicates the usefulness of a partnership between the tobacco control and the social services sector. Such a partnership has recently been initiated by the New South Wales Cancer Council (Australia) with the launch of ‘Lifting the Burden: Tobacco Control and Social Equity Strategy 2006–2011’, to reduce high smoking prevalence among disadvantaged groups. A focus of this rare strategy is to enhance awareness and understanding of smoking risks among social services agencies and to build their capacity to contribute to tobacco control.