We’ve made a lot of progress in the last several decades with smoking cessation. Since the 1964 surgeon general’s report on this habit’s dangers, smoking rates have fallen nationwide, with only 15 percent of adults still smoking. Smoking among some groups has plunged 62 percent.
But there is a problem. The groups with the greatest improvement are the highest income and best educated. Among people with lower incomes and less education, the drop has been only nine percent; the smoking rate for people with a high school equivalency is stuck at above 40 percent. In other words, there is a huge socioeconomic gap in smoking rates in this country. This translates into higher poverty rates and lower life expectancies in the people who are most vulnerable.
Of course, tobacco companies are trying to hang on to the smaller market share they have left, so there is evidence they target low-income communities. These same communities don’t have the access to health care and smoking-cessation programs as in more-affluent parts of the country. Plus there is a tendency to look at the overall success of smoking-cessation programs and think the battle has been won.
We’ve made a lot of progress in bringing down cancer rates and increasing life expectancies. But there is still a lot of work to be done.
There is an excellent discussion of this at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/with_each_cigarette_puff_the_socioeconomic_gap_smokers_widens_20170614.