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Socioeconomics Can Spur Smoking

Poverty in childhood increased risk for lighting up, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 8, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Socioeconomic factors influence whether a person starts smoking and the difficulty he experiences if he tries to kick the habit.

A Brown Medical School/The Miriam Hospital study found there are a number of socioeconomic forces that influence smokers and these factors accumulate over the course of a person's life, leading to increased risk of starting to smoke, progression to regular smoking and difficulty quitting.

The study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, assessed 657 people aged 30 to 39 who were born in Providence, R.I., and followed through adulthood.

The study found low socioeconomic status (SES) in childhood increased the risk that a person would start smoking and progress to regular smoking. Aspects of childhood SES that predicted increased cigarette smoking were parental occupation, household poverty and mother's educational level.

Lower adult SES was associated with progression to regular smoking and reduced likelihood of quitting. Specifically, the study found a person's level of education predicted progression to regular smoking and reduced likelihood of quitting.

"These findings add to existing evidence suggesting that more equitable social and economic policies will have a significant public health benefit," study author Stephen E. Gilman, a researcher at the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at Brown Medical School/The Miriam Hospital, says in a prepared statement.

"Improving the effectiveness and accessibility of smoking prevention programs for disadvantaged youth and smoking cessation programs for adult smokers in lower socioeconomic groups is also essential," Gilman says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about how to quit smoking.

SOURCE: Brown Medical School, news release, October 2003
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