William Eichler 09 February 2022

Smoking 'single largest driver' of health inequalities

Smoking single largest driver of health inequalities image
Image: Nopphon_1987/Shutterstock.com.

A third of smoking households in England are living in poverty with rates highest in the North, a new study has revealed.

New analysis of national data commissioned by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has revealed that the proportion of smokers living in poverty is highest in the North and Midlands.

In England as a whole 31% of households containing smokers live in poverty once spend on smoking is taken into account, ASH has found. The average smoker is spending just under £2,000 a year on tobacco.

When net income and smoking expenditure is taken into account, 1.16 million or 31% of households with a smoker fall below the poverty line. The residents of these houses include around 2.2 million adults below pension age, around 400,000 pension age adults and around 1 million dependent children.

Smoking rates are highest in the North East where 42% of households containing smokers live in poverty, while London is lowest at 17%. The average gross disposable household income per head in the North East is only £17,096, while in London it is £30,256.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: ‘Smoking is the single largest driver of health inequalities in England and it is shocking that it’s contributing to more than two million adults living in poverty, concentrated in the most disadvantaged regions in the country.

‘Behind every statistic is a human being. A real person, threatened by the debilitating health effects of smoking, and significantly poorer because of an addiction that started in childhood.

‘We look forward to the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan to achieve the Government’s smoke free 2030 ambition. This will play a key role in delivering the 2030 targets to narrow the gap in life expectancy, wellbeing and productivity between the top performing and other areas set out in the Levelling Up White Paper.’

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