Chapter 3: Smoking and Social-Economic Status (SES)

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The issue of social class is one that is exceptionally important but criminally overlooked by today’s health community, and indeed the public at large.  There is a very definite class-divide when it comes to tobacco users, with most cigarette smokers tending to come from the lower classes, and pipe and cigar smokers tending to be from the upper classes.  It is no secret, of course, that those from the lower classes have less money, more physical and often more dangerous jobs (such as factory work or working with chemicals), worse lifestyles and diets than those in the upper classes, and tend to have poorer healthcare.  On the other hand, those in the upper classes lead more relaxed lives, eat better food and have healthier lifestyles.  Statistically, then, showing that cigarette smokers contract lung cancer more than non-smokers really shows that people from lower social classes are more likely to get lung cancer.  Actually, people with a lower socio-economic status are more likely to die younger anyway, lung cancer or not.  This is something the anti-smokers overlook, deliberately or not I do not know, but the fact is the issue of class and illness is often neglected, which is jumping the gun somewhat.

In their book The Health Trap Richard Dorsett and Alan Marsh look at smoking and poverty, and we are told on the back of the book that:  

Smoking has become more and more concentrated among Britain’s poorest families…The poorest group – Britain’s 1.7 million lone parent families – smoke most…Among the large group of lone parents who rely on council housing and social security benefits, more than three-quarters smoke…Lone parents who smoke pay nearly £300 million a year back to the Treasury.

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