Fretting About the Economy? How About a Smoke?
If you think you've noticed more people huddled in doorways puffing on cigarettes, or smelled smoke on the breath of someone you thought had kicked the habit, you may be right -- a new survey indicates that the economic meltdown is prompting people to light up more.
The online survey of 2,076 U.S. adults conducted for the anti-smoking group American Legacy Foundation found that money worries are prompting ex-smokers to pick up the habit again and unrepentant nicotine fiends to smoke more.
It's just the latest evidence that the economic crisis is taking its toll on people's health, an issue two of my colleagues explored in a story last month.
In the new survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive from Oct. 28-30, 1,345 respondents reported they had ever smoked, including 786 former smokers and 568 current smokers. Of the former smokers, 570 said they were stressed by the economy and, of those, 9 percent said they had been tempted to start smoking again, though none of them had -- at least not at the time the survey was conducted.
Of the 568 current smokers, 439 said they were stressed by the economy. Of the 439, 67 percent said that stress had affected their smoking. Seven percent said they had quit but started again because of the stress. While 28 percent said money worries had prompted them to consider quitting to save money, 21 percent reported they decided to just switch to a cheaper brand. About a quarter said they had started smoking more, with women, the unemployed and people who earn the least being the most likely to be lighting up more. And 13 percent said they had delayed plans they had to try to quit.
All this, not surprisingly, has gotten health experts worried. November is, after all, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and Nov. 20 is the annual Great American Smoke-Out -- both of which could take on new meaning if the economy is prompting more, instead of fewer, Americans to smoke.
How about you? Has the economy got you worried? Are you smoking more? Tempted to pick up the habit again? How about other bad/dangerous/previously conquered habits?
November 13, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
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