Smoking rates in the United States have been falling for decades. Yet, about 15 percent of adults — more than 36 million — continue to smoke cigarettes.
And of those smokers, half to three-quarters have at least one of the following disadvantages: low income, no college education, no health insurance or a disability.
The findings come from a national survey done in 2012. The data show that smoking is concentrated among the least advantaged Americans, according to the researchers.
“In the last half-century, public health efforts helped cut the smoking rate by more than half, but we probably need to change our strategies for helping smokers quit. The methods that worked for the upper half of society don’t seem to be working well for the other half,” said study author Arnold Levinson. He’s an associate professor of community and behavioral health with the University of Colorado Anschutz.
“Americans with lower socioeconomic status today are suffering from epidemic smoking rates, and they make up nearly three-fourths of all our remaining smokers,” Levinson said in a university news release.
“Now the nation’s public health system has a dual moral obligation toward smokers of low socioeconomic class. We must eliminate the disparity in smoking rates, and we must provide cessation-supporting services to the new majority of smokers,” he concluded.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.
The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.