Children and adults living with adult smokers appear less likely to have daily access to enough healthy food compared with those living with non-smoking adults, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals1.
About 13 million
Cynthia Cutler-Triggs, M.D., of the New York University School of Medicine and
At least one smoker lived in 23 percent of the children’s households “and 32 percent of children in low-income households lived with a smoker compared with 15 percent of those in more affluent households.” Fifteen percent of adults and 11 percent of children reported having experienced food insecurity within the last year, with 6 percent of adults and 1 percent of children experiencing severe food insecurity.
“Food insecurity was more common and severe in children and adults in households with smokers,” the authors write. “Of children in households with smokers, 17 percent were food insecure vs. 8.7 percent in households without smokers,” with rates of severe child food insecurity at 3.2 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively. “For adults, 25.7 percent in households with smokers and 11.6 percent in households without smokers were food insecure, and rates of severe food insecurity were 11.8 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.” The highest rates of food insecurity were in children living in low-income households with smokers. Additionally, compared with white families, black and Hispanic families had higher rates of child food insecurity in both smoking and non-smoking homes.
“These data also demonstrate how pervasive this combination of child health risks is in low-income families,” the authors conclude. “The burden of food insecurity is a previously unrecognized danger of adult tobacco use to be added to the ever-growing list of negative effects of adult tobacco use on children in the
Aside from spending resources on cigarettes instead of healthy foods, cigarette smoking also contributes to “lost productivity resulting from diseases caused by smoking,” further lowering incomes and raising the likelihood of food insecurity, writes Frank J. Chaloupka, Ph.D., of the
“Comprehensive tobacco control policies and programs are effective in reducing this burden, with higher taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products being particularly effective in promoting cessation and reducing tobacco use in low-income populations,” Dr. Chaloupka continues.
“However, the potential for higher taxes to exacerbate food insecurity in households that continue to smoke makes it critical that at least some of the new revenues generated by higher tobacco taxes be used to support programs targeting low-income households, including those that further reduce the health and economic burden caused by smoking on this particularly vulnerable population. ”
1. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162:1056-1062.
2. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162:1096-1097.