Smoking hurts the poor more

03/06/2011

In his latest CathBlog, Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Social Justice Co-ordinator Evan Ellis says the welcomed changes to cigarette taxes and packaging legislation also highlight the serious policy implications for the marginalised and most vulnerable in our community.

"Each year 15,000 Australians die of smoking related diseases. We bleed a further $31.5 billion in healthcare and lost productivity annually," Evan writes.  

"However the harm caused, terrible as it is, is made worse by how unevenly it is spread. Across the wider Australian community, smoking is at a relatively low 18 per cent. But the figures skyrocket though when you target specific demographics.

"More than 45 per cent of low income single parents smoke, while around 50 per cent of Indigenous Australians, 70-to-80 per cent of prisoners, 70-to-90 per cent of people with a mental illness and 74-to-100 per cent of people in drug treatment smoke.

"It is the marginalised and most vulnerable who give up their money (and health) for Big Tobacco to make their mega profits.

"Such groups have a proportionally lower income to insulate themselves from the high cost of cigarettes. The Cancer Council estimates that the poorest smoking households in NSW spend nearly 20 per cent of their income on tobacco, enough to rival rent stress.

"This has policy implications when increasing the price of cigarettes as the current changes do; a supposed disincentive can be financially crippling to someone addicted and unsupported.

"For all these reasons, the Cancer Council is now addressing smoking as a social justice issue. They work in partnership with social service agencies, like our own CatholicCare, to reduce the prevalence of smoking among disadvantaged groups.

"This is what annoys me about jibes against the changes being a threat to our liberty or a nanny state intervention. The people who bear the brunt of smoking are often the people who are least free and are routinely overlooked by the state."

Read Evan's full blog at CathBlog

Visit the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Social Justice Office 

Visit CatholicCare Social Services - Diocese of Parramatta

 


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