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Suggestions for a New Anti-Smoking Campaign: smoking makes you poor

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Stop-smoking efforts over the past quarter century have been successful. For instance, as reported by the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, smoking in that country has fallen from 35% of the population in 1985 to 18% last year. This has happened during an assertive public education campaign about the impact of smoking. 

Since 2004, however, the progress in Canada as slowed. In the 90s, smokers made up about 1% less of the population each year. Over the past 6 years, that slowed to a 1% drop every 3 years. 

This is no great surprise, given reports that the general public has become immune to warning labels posted on tobacco packaging. Consumers have begun to tune out the harsh warnings about health effects found on cigarette packs.

This suggest that we might need a new angle in the public debate on smoking, with a special emphasis on youth. Youth become smokers because they think it is hip and cool. They are not turned off by health warnings, because of the long time horizons involved, and a prevailing sense that any possible health problems will happen to other people and not to them.

Anti-smoking campaigns should focus on how to make smoking less cool. Kids do not want to be associated with anything that is no longer considered cool. Positive role models can play an important role in this public education. Luckily, the data also presents an opportunity to help making smoking less cool.

Surely, most kids would consider "growing up poor" to be uncool. We all seem to hope for prosperity later in life and few people in our society would voluntarily choose poverty.

There is a relationship between your household income and the rate of smoking. As income rises, people smoke less. Furthermore, the poorest people in our society have the highest rate of smoking. This is from findings by Gallup and the Center for Disease Control based up a 2008 data survey of the American population. Specifically, they found that up to 34% of poor people smoked, while only 11% of wealthy people smoked.

A simple message to kids for our anti-smoking campaigns could be that if you start smoking, you are more likely to be poor when you grow up. While some would challenge the methodology of this approach, and whether smoking is a causation or correlation of poverty, the message is a powerful one. Few kids aspire to being poor. We can use that sentiment to help reduce smoking.

The stigma of poverty is powerful, and we should take advantage of that negative sentiment to prevent more kids from starting smoking. The impact of smoking on the health of individuals, in addition to the well-being of society as a whole, is widely understood. We should capitalize on any opportunity to reduce the rate of smoking.

The Center for Disease Control and the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey provide additional tobacco facts on their respective websites.



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