Smoking vs Poverty: Another tax on the Poor

Smoking vs Poverty: Another tax on the Poor

It is sometimes said that gambling is a tax on the poor. In other words, since, “the house always wins,” those who can least afford to part with money are the ones who tend to spend a comparatively higher proportion of their earnings on gambling in its various forms. The poor tend to gamble in the hope of escaping the poverty trap, whereas thoSe who are more affluent often do it as a pastime.

It appears that smoking displays the same characteristics as gambling.

Data released by the Office of National Statistics show that the likelihood of smoking is four times higher in England’s most deprived areas than the least deprived areas. A person’s likelihood of smoking increases as the level of deprivation in their community increases. Out of several measures of inequality, area deprivation – which combines factors such as income, employment, health and education within an area – had the greatest impact on someone’s likelihood of smoking.

The interactive map, below, shows the level of smoking prevalence by local authority between 2012 and 2016. It reflects the sentiments in the paragraph above. As can be seen, high prevalence is seen in area s of high deprivation such as Blackpool, Bradford, Hull, Manchester, Rossendale, Tameside, Knowsley and Salford. At the opposite end of the smoking scale, just 4.9% of people smoked in Epsom and Ewell in Surrey (the lowest in England). Fewer than 1 in 10 people smoked in many of England’s least deprived areas, including places like Wokingham in Berkshire, Chiltern in Buckinghamshire and Waverley in Surrey.

Other important factors were the following:

  • Housing tenure (People living in rented accommodation were more than three times more likely to smoke than those who weren’t renting
  • Occupational group (People in routine and manual jobs were three times more likely to smoke than those in managerial and professional jobs).
  • Having no qualifications,
  • Receiving benefits
  • Having a health problem which severely limits activity.

The cumulative effects of these and other factors are illustrated on the chart below:

The good news is that over the four years of the study, smoking prevalence declined across all levels of derivation. In 2016, 27.2% of adults living in England’s most deprived areas were smokers, down from close to one-third (32.7%) in 2012. Meanwhile, just 7.9% of adults in the least deprived neighbourhoods smoked in 2016, compared with 10.0% in 2012.

For those in England, there are a range of resources available to help if you wish to quit. You can talk to someone in a local pharmacy, many of which now offer funded smoking cessation programmes. You can also contact your GP. Alongside these traditional resources you might find the following useful:

MM Health

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