Final Word: Research says the poorer you are the harder it is to quit smoking
Fantastic article in the New York Times today about the rates of smoking among poor Americans.
Since 1997, smoking rates among Americans have gone down by 27 percent, but among poor Americans, it has gone down just 15 percent. Americans with a high school education or less make up 40 percent of the population, but they make up 55 percent of the nation’s 42 million smokers.
Among adults living in deep poverty in the South and Midwest, the smoking rate hasn’t changed a bit.
When smoking first swept the United States in the early 1900s, it was something the wealthy did.
Smoking exploded in the 1960s, when soldiers coming home from war brought their habit home with them. Half of all men and a third of all women called themselves smokers.
But it wasn’t too long before a pack of cigarettes started to carry a warning. The first warning was pretty mild, stating “cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.”
In 1967, the warning was expanded to include “and may cause death from cancer and other diseases.”
Slowly, as the Surgeon General joined in the chorus against smoking, Americans learned that choosing to smoke cigarettes was the single worst choice a human could make. Premature death from smoking, though nearly a sure thing, was entirely preventable.
Americans quit smoking in huge numbers. The Great American Smokeout was born. Smoking became the cancer-causing, teeth staining, smelly puking habit in states like ours, as public service messages carried the warnings.
Many listened. Except the poor.
The numbers don’t lie. In affluent counties, the decline in smoking has been great and swift. IN poor counties, no one quits. Health officials say this illustrates the need for a refocus on the poor and working class. But if the message that smoking this will kill you doesn’t work, what will?
Maybe the cost?
At more than $6 a pack, smoking is neither healthy NOR cheap. It’s sad that a person’s health could be less important to someone than their checkbook, but hey, whatever works.