Smoking rates greater in poorer households

A study commissioned by the charity Action on Smoking and Health has uncovered a strong link between poverty and high rates of smoking in the UK.

According to research by the economist Howard Reed, families on lower incomes were more likely to contain smokers than those earning more. Using government data on family incomes and living circumstances, it found that three in five households with smokers living in poverty are in the north of England and the Midlands while one in five are in London and the South East.

Around 1.5 million smoking households across the country live below the poverty line, with 42 per cent in the North East compared to 17 per cent in London. The data also revealed that in total, 730,000 smoking households living in poverty are in the north and Midlands while 215,000 are in London and the South East.

“Smokers are more likely to be below the poverty line wherever they live but for those in parts of the country where incomes are lower smoking has a much bigger impact. This disparity must be taken into account by Government in the development of future strategies to improve public health and level up society,” said ASH deputy chief executive Hazel Cheeseman.

She said the government can have “a profound impact on the wealth and wellbeing of poorer families and reinforce broader economic strategies to build back better” in a post-pandemic society if it hits its target of a smoke-free England by 2030.

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