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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK


Single mums more likely to smoke

Income and status influence smoking habits

Lone parents on low incomes are more likely to smoke and less likely to be able to give up, according to a new report.

A report published by the Health Education Authority showed evidence of a direct link between social deprivation and smoking.

It found that 75% of the most disadvantaged lone mothers smoked, compared to 25% of other women.

These were women who left school early, lived in council accommodation and received income.

Overall, 50% of lone mothers smoked.

Smoking link to poverty

Co-author of the report Alan Marsh said: "Smoking is increasingly identified with poverty. While the number of smokers in the UK has been falling since the 1970s, the number of lone mothers smoking has increased to double the national average.

"Not even the tobacco companies could dream of achieving such an increase, yet this is what the social and economic disadvantages of lone parenthood seem to have done to almost a million of Britain's young women."

The report showed that people who live in extreme hardship and are under 30 are likely to be smokers.

Those who stayed at school beyond the age of 16, had some qualifications and own property are not.

Lower self-esteem

The research concludes that income is a factor in a person's decision to smoke and that lone parents who smoke have low morale and self-esteem and are therefore less likely to give up.

[ image: Giving up usually requires an optimistic frame of mind]
Giving up usually requires an optimistic frame of mind
Mr Marsh said: "We know that many people give up smoking for optimistic reasons, to look better, feel better or get better. It is very hard for many lone parents to find the optimistic frame of mind that will give them the determination to quit smoking."

The report's authors also called on the government to release money to help poorer smokers quit.

They estimate that tax revenue from cigarettes bought by lone parents totals £275m.

The money could be used to provide those on income support with free nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches and chewing gum, they said.

The number of single parent families in the UK has tripled to 1.7 million over the last 25 years.

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