Gallup Survey: Income Influences Smoking Behavior
> 3/24/2008 12:49:37 PM

Gallup, the influential polling institution, released data last week from a recent poll conducted in concert with new partner Healthways—a collaboration called the Well-Being Index. In the data released, which surveyed 75,000 Americans about their smoking habits alongside other data points, Gallup sought to compare smoking behavior to income. Their results add to a growing body of evidence that shows how individuals earning a lower income tend to smoke at a higher rate.

Overall, this new information illustrates that roughly 1 out of every 5 Americans smokes, with 23 percent of men and 19 percent of women identifying as smokers. With regards to income, individuals making between $6,000 and $12,000 had the highest rate of smoking at 34 percent, and that percentage decreased as income went up. 13 percent of the two income groups making $90,000 and up reported smoking.

In comparing this new information to data that Gallup previously collected on worldwide smoking behaviors, the group noted two interesting points:

Smoking rates in the United States are similar to those around the world. Across 118 different countries Gallup surveyed in 2006 and 2007, a median percentage of 22% said they smoked the day before the survey... The relationship between income and smoking among Americans does not appear to repeat itself at the country level. Gallup researchers previously found no consistent relationship between the prevalence of smoking in a country and its location or its residents' relative wealth.

From the standpoint of addressing the health care implications of this data, it would seem that the most important thing that we can take away is that more PR efforts to promote quitting should be focused at those in lower income areas. New York City has recently taken steps to put nicotine replacement options on sale anywhere cigarettes are sold. The city has also spoken with the makers of these products about packaging them in more affordable doses so that an individual doesn't have to choose between a $5 dollar pack of smokes (or an illegally sold "loosey" at the bodega) and an $80 box of nicotine gum. This is by no means a perfect situation, and should not be construed as an endorsement of nicotine replacement, but it is one example of an attempt to deal with the realities of smoking behaviors outlined in the Gallup survey.


Another study release this week found a genetic link to nicotine addiction and even lung cancer. All of the studies combined could have even larger implications.Could there even be a genetic link between nicotine addiction (or any other addictive behavior) and decision-making behaviors? Some might argue that members of the higher income bracket (hence decreased smoking population) have a genetic predisposition for motivation and high-achievement... This of course would exclude those that are 'born into' wealth. ...An interesting, but perhaps dangerous, path to explore.
Posted by: Michelle 4/2/2008 12:31:44 PM

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