The reserch suggests that parents are likely to forgo basic household and food necessities in order to fund their smoking addiction.
This is the first UK study to highlight the extent to which smoking exacerbates child poverty. The findings, published in the open access journal BMC Public Health, are based on national surveys which estimate the number of children living in poverty by household structure. In 1999, the UK government announced a target to abolish child poverty by 2020, though this target is unlikely to be met. It is therefore crucial to identify avoidable factors that contribute to and worsen child poverty.
Dr Tessa Langley from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies in the School of Medicine said: “Smoking reduces the income available for families to feed, clothe and otherwise care for their children living in low-income households. This study demonstrates that if our government, and our health services, prioritised treating smoking dependence, it could have a major effect on child poverty as well as health.”
Smoking is an expensive habit and one that impoverishes millions of people around the world. In the US, smokers spend less on housing than non-smokers and recent research in India showed that smoking cuts spending on food, education, and entertainment.
This new study; ‘Parental smoking and child poverty in the UK: An analysis of national survey data’; estimates that 1.1 million children in the UK, almost half of all children in poverty, were living with at least one parent who smokes. A further 400,000 would be classed as being in poverty if parental tobacco expenditure were subtracted from household income.
In July 2014, the weighted average price of 20 cigarettes in the UK was £7 (GB). Although many smokers save money by opting for budget brands or switching to hand rolling tobacco, the cost of their smoking is still a substantial drain on the budgets of families living on low incomes.
Dr Langley said: “The poverty threshold income level for a two parent household with two children is £392. If both parents are smokers, these households will be spending an average of £50 on tobacco per week, which is a big drain on an already tight budget.”
This is a key opportunity for the UK Government to take action to improve the lives of millions of children.
“Tobacco control interventions to encourage low income smokers to quit, would not only improve health but also alleviate poverty,” says Tessa Langley.
Future studies are needed to determine what families sacrifice to sustain their habit, whether they do without fresh fruit or food in general; heating bills or clothing. This would provide a better picture on the burden of smoking in poor households.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the THE Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top one per cent of universities by the QS World University Rankings, and 8th in the UK by research power according to REF 2014.
The University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC) is holding events throughout 2015 to celebrate 15 years as a pioneer of transnational education. Based in Semenyih, UNMC was established as the UK’s first overseas campus in Malaysia and one of the first world-wide.
Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future.
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