Poverty: Homelessness
And Smoking

           The tobacco-homelessness link has long been known. It was reported by, for example,

In 1916, B. Frank Scholl, Ph.G., M.D., ed., Library of Health: Complete Guide to Prevention and Cure of Disease (Philadelphia: Historical Publishing Co, 1916), p 1486, identified cigarette smoking as "an expensive habit, often entailing poverty, and always diminishing the recompense of labor. In the families of those who earn meagre support its expensiveness is almost the equivalent of robbery of wife and children. Destitution lies in the wake of tobacco . . . ."

King AlfredHere is a modern example of data on the subject. When Professeur Robert Molimard, Président de la Société de Tabacologie, was head of a ward in Max Fourestier Hospital, Nanterre, France, in 1977, he opened a smoking cessation clinic.

           This hospital is specially devoted to Paris homeless. A survey in this hospital found 90% smokers among them. A large majority were chronic users of alcoholic beverages.

           As a result of their low income, they use tobacco in a very hazardous way: hand-rolled cigarettes, without filter, recycled tobacco from butts, group smoking, a cigarette passing from mouth to mouth together with Koch's bacillus etc. This is not special to France, as shown in a Los Angeles survey. See Aloot CB, Vredevoe DL, Brecht ML: "Evaluation of high-risk smoking practices used by the homeless," 16 Cancer Nursing 1202-1203 (1993).

           The health result of these habits is appalling, with a dramatic increase of throat and mouth cancer. See Stefani (de) E, Oreggia F, Rivero S, Fierro L: "Hand rolled cigarette smoking and risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx and larynx," 70 Cancer  679-682 (1992).

           Prof. Molimard desperately tried to find specific ways to help them quitting. He deems that it is hopeless as long as they remain in their social status. His few success were with some of them who stopped drinking with the help of the alcoholic groups working in the hospital ("vie libre", anonymous alcoholics, blue cross), then found a job and eventually quit using the skills they had acquired to get rid of wine.

           Prof. Molinard recognizes that an underlying problem is how to prevent people to become homeless, because the way back to a "normal " life is very hard and uncertain. Smoking is a behavior of the poor. The lesser the income, the higher the prevalence. Thus, which is the hen, which is the egg? The usual explanation is that they smoke more because they are poor. The reverse may be true, that they are poor because they smoke. (That is what writers of the nineteenth century said).

           If two or three packs a day are smoked in his family, an French unskilled worker paid the equivalent of a month's salary in 1992. Now, as the price of cigarettes is twice as high, how can he afford such an increase in expense? He may turn to lower price cigarettes, without filter, to hand-rolled ones. He may leave shorter butts. See Molimard R, Amrioui F, Martin C, Carles P: "Poids des mégots et contraintes économiques," 23 Presse Médicale 824-826 (1994).

           All these changes to even more dangerous but cheaper cigarettes are detrimental to his health. He may also give a bit less of meat to his children. But he will not stop smoking, as judged by the smoking prevalence among the homeless. Thus he begins to delay the payment of the rent of his flat, of the electricity bill, and eventually is thrown to the street. You may add that if a boss has to reduce the staff of his firm, the first ones to be fired will be those who arrive drunk at work in the morning, or who spend a lot of time for cigarette breaks.

           Prof. Molimard points out that economists are enthusiastic about elasticity. They present nice curves showing that cigarette consumption diminishes as prices increase. They argue in favour of increasing taxes as a sure means of reducing smoking. I would like that the ratio betwen benefits and adverse effects of this policy would be a bit more evaluated before keeping on pushing that way. As a matter of fact, they call consumption what is mere sales. They do not measure real consumption, which is the only thing that matters regarding health. If a homeless person smokes butts, or even used filters, he does not buy cigarettes.

See also the article "Tobacco and the Poor in Bangladesh" (10 September 2001), citing Debra Efroymson, et al., "Hungry for tobacco: an analysis of the economic impact of tobacco consumption on the poor in Bangladesh," 10 Tobacco Control 212-217 (Autumn 2001): "tobacco use is a neglected issue in poverty reduction and . . . poverty is a [currently] neglected issue in tobacco control. A further benefit of tobacco control measures could be decreased expenditure on non-essential goods, and a concurrent improvement in the health and well being of the poor. Major improvements in quality of life and nutritional status could occur if governments focused attention on tobacco control measures, and if the tobacco control movement utilised the poverty argument to convince governments of poor countries, and other agencies, to join the tobacco control movement." .

In the mid-1990s, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. created the "Subculture urban marketing" Project SCUM campaign, targeting the gay community and the homeless in San Francisco. Pushers know the tobacco connection to both gays and the homeless! (Only the dumbed down public, with the typical American having no more than a fourth grade education by 19th century standards even if they have a so-called "degree" (!), doesn't know!)

          Smoking leads to alcoholism, drug abuse, mental disorder. All of these impair judgement, including money management.

          We can also note smoking's role in leading to divorce, and its adverse financial consequences.

          Cigarettes contain toxic chemicals. Deaths are "natural and probable consequences." Pursuant to standard lawbook definitions, nonsmokers' involuntary foreseeable deaths constitute murder. The high number of deaths is a "holocaust" according to the Royal Society of Physicians' 1971 criteria, and is part of the total genocide problem.

         Michigan Governor John Engler and staff were paper supportive of action to enforce Michigan's 1909 cigarette ban law, issuing five pertinent memoranda.

Exec Order 1992-3
Law Support Letter # 1
Anti-Cigarette Smuggling Finding
Law Support Letter # 2
Governor's Overview

Related Medical Data Web Sites
Cigarettes' Toxic Chemicals
Medical Statistics
Prevent Crime
Prevent Heart Disease
Prevent SIDS
Smoker Addiction
Smoker Brain Damage
Smoker Mental Disorder

Poverty Prevention Testimony (27 June 2012)

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Please visit our tobacco effects site.

Copyright © 1999 Leroy J. Pletten