Public Release: 

Low income smokers support smuggling to maintain habit


"They're doing people a service" - qualitative study of smoking, smuggling, and social deprivation BMJ Volume 323, pp 203-207

Low income smokers living in socially deprived areas view cigarette and tobacco smuggling as a positive way of dealing with the increasing costs of cigarettes, concludes a study in this week's BMJ. This suggests that they may show little support for tackling smuggling until more government action is taken to help them quit.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh interviewed 50 male and 50 female smokers, aged 25-40 years and living in two socially deprived areas, about their smoking behaviour. They found that most smokers wanted to quit but perceived a lack of support to help them to stop smoking. Strategies to maintain smoking in the face of increasing cigarette prices and low income included buying contraband products, particularly in pubs.

Respondents viewed smuggling as a reasonable response to the perceived high prices of cigarettes and considered that smugglers were providing a valuable service. Many smokers criticised the government for its high tobacco taxation and the lack of local services to help them stop smoking.

The government has already taken action to reduce smuggling, but more needs to be done, say the authors. Given that deprived areas have the highest rates of smoking and lowest levels of quitting, at the very least it is essential that smoking cessation services are expanded to become more accessible to disadvantaged smokers in Britain, they conclude.


Amanda Amos, Senior Lecturer, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Edinburgh, Scotland

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