Low-income smokers light up less often when cigarettes come with a high price tag and homes have a smoke-free policy, according to a new study.
Tobacco use among low-income people remains high, the researchers said, but their findings could help shape public policies aimed at smoking cessation.
"What is important is that clinicians need to emphasize social norms concerning tobacco use and should encourage and discuss strategies for adopting smoke-free homes among all smokers," said the study's first author, Dr Maya Vijayaraghavan, assistant clinical professor in the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.
"Additionally, there is a lot of interest in raising cigarette prices to reduce smoking," Vijayaraghavan said in a university news release. "While we have evidence that moderate increases reduce smoking behaviour in all income groups, it is important to match such a policy with support to help lower-income smokers to quit successfully."
The study of US Census Bureau data, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggested that people of all income levels smoke less when a pack of cigarettes costs $4.50 or more, said principal investigator John Pierce, professor and director of population sciences at the university.
"Living in a state where the average price paid for cigarettes is low ($3.20 or less per pack) means that all smokers, regardless of income, will smoke a lot more than those who live in a state with higher prices," Pierce said.
The researchers also found that having a smoke-free home not only curbs tobacco use, but also helps prevent a relapse among those trying to quit.
"Price is a deterrent to smoking, but successful quitting – 90 or more days – was associated in this study only with a smoke-free home," Pierce said.Regulation of second hand smoke
The researchers said low-income smokers are less likely to have smoke-free policies at home since it's often the case that more than one person in the home smokes.
They noted, however, that anyone serious about quitting should consider a smoke-free rule in their home.
Vijayaraghavan added that another way to deter smoking would be to boost regulation of second hand smoke in public housing. "This may change norms around smoking among low-income populations living in public housing," she said.
For the study, the researchers examined information on 150,000 adults from a national survey on tobacco use conducted by the US Census Bureau between 2006 and 2007. The participants provided information on their income and smoking habits.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on smoking cessation.