Tobacco use is a poor person’s problem. People with low incomes consume and grow it the most and suffer the gravest consequences from its trade and use. Yet tobacco control policies do not adequately address their needs, merely using them as statistics to highlight the enormity of problems rather than implementing measures to benefit them.

Globally, 84 percent of smokers now live in low- and middle-income countries, which are also where around 90 percent of tobacco farming takes place. Even in the West, smoking is more prevalent in economically disadvantaged communities. This worldwide class disparity is set to grow. While tobacco use is declining in the West, it continues to increase in LMICs, which are projected to suffer three times the wealthier world’s death toll by 2030.

The impact of tobacco use on the poor is more severe in health and financial terms. The costs of tobacco and associated healthcare strain family budgets and reduce spending in areas like children’s education, pushing smokers and their families further into poverty.

The most favoured tobacco control measure—tax increases—exacerbates the problem. Further stressing poor smokers’ limited resources, it often forces them to switch to cheaper, even more harmful alternatives—for example, the traditional bidis (unprocessed tobacco smoked in rolled leaves) that are far more popular than cigarettes in India.

Read full article here.

Samrat Chowdhery – FilterMag – 2021-04-30.

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