Smoking Cessation and Financial Stress

Mohammad Siahpush, Professor; Matt Spittal, Dr; Gopal K. Singh, Dr


Journal of Public Health. 2007;29(4):338-342. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Background: Research on the financial consequences of quitting smoking is scant. We examined the association of smoking cessation with the subsequent likelihood of experiencing financial stress.
Methods: Data came from Waves 1, 2 and 3 (2001-04) of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey. The size of the subsample of smokers in Wave 1 who also participated in Waves 2 and 3 was 1747. We compared respondents who reported to have been a smoker in all three waves with those who were smokers only in Wave 1. Eight questionnaire items were used to construct a binary financial stress indicator.
Results: The odds of experiencing financial stress in Wave 3 were 42% (95% CI: 6-74%; P = 0.028) smaller for quitters than for continued smokers.
Conclusions: Interventions to encourage smoking cessation among disadvantaged groups are likely to enhance their material conditions and standards of living, and to reduce socio-economic disparities in mortality.

Tobacco smoking accounts for 12% of the global adult mortality.[1] In Australia it is estimated to kill over 19 000 people each year and is responsible for about 10% of the entire national burden of disease and injury.[2] Although health benefits of smoking cessation are well-established,[3,4,5] financial consequences of quitting smoking for individual smokers have never been investigated. However, several studies have examined financial stress and hardship as a predictor of smoking behaviour. A study in the UK using cross-sectional and qualitative data from a sample of working class mothers reported that the major reason for relapse after cessation was difficulty coping with everyday problems and stress, including financial stress.[6] The authors concluded that restricted access to material resources (housing conditions, income, employment and living standards) hinders smoking cessation. Another study employed longitudinal data from a sample of lone mothers in the UK and reported that smoking provides an affordable palliative for stress and that financial hardship was the main barrier to quitting. Hardship was referred to as the experience of financial anxiety, being in debt that cannot be paid off easily, and not being able to afford essential consumer items such as food and clothing.[7] Similarly, an Australian study used national longitudinal data and reported that smokers with more financial stress (e.g. difficulty in paying electricity, gas or telephone bills, and going without meals due to shortage of money) at baseline were less likely to quit and that ex-smokers with more financial stress at baseline were more likely to relapse.[8] We do not know of any published prospective studies that examine how smoking cessation affects subsequent levels of financial stress. Our aim was to use longitudinal data from a representative national sample in Australia to examine the association of smoking cessation with the subsequent likelihood of financial stress.


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