Those Poor, Sad Smokers

With a 62-cent rise in the federal cigarette tax taking effect this month, don’t be surprised if many smokers renew their efforts to kick the habit — or, at least, to reduce the amount they smoke. There’s a simple reason for this, as a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report points out: Smoking correlates strongly with low household income.

Among people with household income in the $12,000-35,999 range, 38 percent are smokers. The figure falls to 22 percent among those in the $36,000-59,999 bracket, to 13 percent among the $60,000-89,999s and to 12 percent among the $90,000-plusers. Putting the matter another way, 25 percent of smokers are in households with income of $60,000 or more, while 53 percent have incomes under $36,000.

The income figures are consistent with a breakdown of the data (gathered throughout 2008) by educational attainment. Among adults with a high school education, 28 percent are smokers, as are 23 percent of those with “some college,” 12 percent of college graduates and 7 percent of those with postgraduate degrees.

If smokers hope to ease their stress by puffing away, a new Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends report suggests it isn’t working. Fifty percent of current smokers “frequently” experience stress in their daily lives, vs. 35 percent of former smokers and 31 percent of those who never smoked. Current smokers were the least likely of these three groups to say they’re “very happy.” In the polling (conducted last summer), 25 percent of smokers described themselves that way, vs. 34 percent of former smokers and 39 percent of those who never smoked.