Objective: Our aim was to investigate the association of socio-economic status (SES) with duration of smoking among ever smokers.
Study design: We used a subsample of ever smokers (n = 9973) aged 18+ years from the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare), which involved a multistage area sample and mainly self-administered questionnaires.
Methods: The outcome was smoking duration from onset to cessation. We used survival analysis to predict smoking duration.
Results: Results showed that smoking duration from onset to cessation was 14% longer for blue-collar workers than for professionals. Respondents who earned under 300 US dollars/week smoked for 38% longer than those earning 800 US dollars+/week. Individuals with less than 10 years of education smoked for 13% longer than those with 12+ years of education.
Conclusions: Smokers from lower social strata smoke for much longer durations. This finding and the fact that smoking increases the likelihood of financial stress suggest that lower SES smokers who experience financial stress are more likely to suffer a longer period of compromised living standards than their counterparts in the higher strata. The financial and health burdens of smoking coupled with social inequalities in smoking behaviour suggest that smoking may exacerbate social class differences in health and standards of living. Thus, targeting smoking among disadvantaged groups would not only represent a public health policy but also a social policy to reduce social inequalities.