Smoking and health inequalities

There is a strong link between cigarette smoking and socio-economic group. Smoking has been identified as the single biggest cause of inequality in death rates between rich and poor in the UK. Smoking accounts for over half of the difference in risk of premature death between social classes.

Death rates from tobacco are two to three times higher among disadvantaged social groups than among the better off.

Long-term smokers bear the heaviest burden of death and disease related to their smoking. Long term smokers are disproportionately drawn from lower socio-economic groups. People in poorer social groups who smoke, start smoking at an earlier age: of those in managerial and professional households about one third start smoking before age 16 compared with almost half of those in routine and manual households.

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