Decades of public service anti-smoking and healthy living campaigns turned the nation’s cigarette smokers into non-smokers. Several lawsuits on the dangers of smoking and billions of dollars from tobacco company settlements didn’t hurt. The effort led to huge reductions in lung and other forms of cancer and has saved millions of lives as an equal number of millions gave up tobacco use.
That is unless those who smoked were poor or uneducated or living in rural areas.
Today’s smoking count is just 15% of adults partaking. That’s an historic low. And again, it’s an historic low unless you’re poor, uneducated, etc. In every statistical category America’s “lower class” smokes more and dies more from lung cancer and other smoking diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says smoking cuts life-expectancy and wealthier Americans are better equipped to covered the costs of the deadly vice. And since smoking is down in the — shall we say — higher classes, tobacco companies are desperate to maintain profits and have retooled their marketing to reach lower socioeconomic areas and people.
Smoking first gained serious popularity in the early 20th Century. At that point, it was a habit only the wealthiest could afford. But as the economy grew and people got more prosperous, the habit grew in society. Then in 1964 the surgeon general issued a report on how the deadly health effects of smoking. And for the next three-plus decades smoking among the higher income groups dropped.
Today it’s down 62%.
Truth Initiative is a leading anti-smoking group. Its president Robin Koval said among the poor the drop is only 9%. “There’s this tendency now to blame the ones still smoking. The attitude is: ‘You’re doing it to yourself. If you were just strong enough, you’d be able to quit.’ ”
Koval said what those critics aren’t taking into account the huge financial commitment and resources tobacco companies are pouring into their last remaining stronghold.
“Poorer people don’t smoke because anything’s different or wrong about them. Their communities are not protected like others are. They don’t have access to good health care and cessation programs. If you have a bull’s eye painted on your back, it’s harder to get away,” Koval added.
And she poured on the criticism of tobacco companies who Koval believes is spending a lot of money fighting smoking restrictions and taxes. She said that is especially true in poorer, rural Southern states where smoking continues to be practiced at a high rate.
Matthew Myers heads up the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and he agrees. Myers says his group and others find funding for smoking cessation help is falling. He doesn’t think the nation has the political will to fight anymore and that’s especially true when middle and upper-class Americans think the problem is already solved.
“If you’re educated and live in a well-off area, the smoking problem we’re talking about these days is now largely invisible to you. In some places, you can go days without bumping into a smoker. You start to hear the question, why push more resources into this? Meanwhile, the need is getting even greater, because the people left smoking are the ones who can least afford to,” he said.
Debbie Seals holds classes on smoking cessation in parts of Northern Virginia. She says her classes are the only ones available for miles around. In the poorer parts of the state people who are the most underprivileged smoke the most.
“People down here smoke because of the stress in their life. They smoke because of money problems, family problems. It’s the one thing they have control over. The one thing that makes them feel better. And you want them to give that up? It’s the toughest thing in the world,” she said.
Here are some facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in relation to changes in adult smoking from 1966 to 2015. These figures are by education level:
• Some high school — smoking is down 39%
• High school degree — smoking is down 52%
• Some college — smoking is down 61%
• College degree — smoking is down 83%
More stats from the CDC. This is the average life expectancy after age 50 for non-Hispanic white smokers and non-smokers by education level:
• Smokers high school or less — 28.5 years
• Smokers college or more — 33.9 years
• Non-smokers high school or less — 31.5 years
• Non-smokers college or more — 35.1 years
• Smokers high school or less — 33.0years
• Smokers college or more — 37.6 years
• Non-smokers high school or less — 35.2 years
• Non-smokers college or more — 38.7 years
Source link: The Washington Post