Poorest smokers face toughest odds for kicking the habit

January 20, 2012

Quitting smoking is never easy. However, when you're poor and uneducated, kicking the habit for good is doubly hard, according to a new study by a tobacco dependence researcher at The City College of New York (CCNY).

Christine Sheffer, associate medical professor at CCNY's Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, tracked smokers from different after they had completed a statewide program in Arkansas.

Whether rich or poor, participants managed to quit at about the same rate upon completing a program of , either with or without . But as time went on, a disparity between the groups appeared and widened.

Those with the fewest social and financial resources had the hardest time staving off cravings over the long run. "The poorer they are, the worse it gets," said Professor Sheffer, who directed the program and was an assistant professor with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at the time.

She found that smokers on the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder were 55 percent more likely than those at the upper end to start smoking again three months after treatment. By six months post-quitting, the probability of their going back to cigarettes jumped to two-and-a-half times that of the more affluent smokers. The research will be published in the March 2012 issue of the and will appear ahead-of-print online under the journal's "First Look" section.

In their study, Professor Sheffer and her colleagues noted that overall, Americans with household incomes of $15,000 or less smoke at nearly three times the rate of those with incomes of $50,000 or greater. The consequences are bleak. "Smoking is still the greatest cause of preventable death and disease in the United States today," noted Professor Sheffer. "And it's a growing problem in developing countries."

Harder to Stay Away

Professor Sheffer suggested reasons it may be harder for some to give up tobacco forever.

Smoking relieves stress for those fighting nicotine addiction, so it is life's difficulties that often make them reach for the cigarette pack again. Unfortunately, those on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale suffer more hardships than those at the top – in the form of financial difficulties, discrimination, and job insecurity, to name a few. And for those smokers who started as teenagers, they may have never learned other ways to manage stress, said Professor Sheffer.

For people with lower socioeconomic status (SES), it can be tougher to avoid temptation as well. "Lower SES groups, with lower paying jobs, aren't as protected by smoke-free laws," said Sheffer, so individuals who have quit can find themselves back at work and surrounded by smokers. Also fewer of them have no-smoking policies in their homes.

These factors are rarely addressed in standard treatment programs. "The evidence-based treatments that are around have been developed for middle-class patients," Professor Sheffer pointed out. "So (in therapy) we talk about middle-class problems."

Further research would help determine how the standard six sessions of therapy might be altered or augmented to help. "Our next plan is to take the results of this and other studies and apply what we learned to revise the approach, in order to better meet the needs of poor folks," she said. "Maybe there is a better arrangement, like giving 'booster sessions'. Not everybody can predict in six weeks all the stresses they will have later on down the road."

"Some people say [quitting] is the most difficult thing in their life to do," said Sheffer. "If we better prepare people with more limited resources to manage the types of stress they have in their lives, we'd get better results. "

Explore further: Fake cigarettes increase success rate for quitting smoking

More information: www.ajph.org/

Related Stories

Fake cigarettes increase success rate for quitting smoking

May 12, 2011
Nicotine-free plastic inhalers may increase a smoker's chance of quitting, according to new research published online in the European Respiratory Journal.

Self-identified social smokers less likely to try to quit

June 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Self-identified social smokers are less likely to try to quit and to avoid smoking for more than a month, according to a national study in the American Journal of Public Health conducted by professors ...

Smokers who regularly lifted weights more likely to quit smoking

August 9, 2011
Resistance training, or weight lifting, can do more than just build muscle: it may also help smokers kick the habit, say researchers from The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.

Nicotine replacement therapies may not be effective in helping people quit smoking, study says

January 9, 2012
Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) designed to help people stop smoking, specifically nicotine patches and nicotine gum, do not appear to be effective in helping smokers quit long-term, even when combined with smoking ...

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.