Parental smoking and child poverty in the UK: an analysis of national survey data

BMC Public Health. 2015 May 29;15:507. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-1797-z.


Background: In 2011/12 approximately 2.3 million children, 17% of children in the UK, were estimated to be in relative poverty. Cigarette smoking is expensive and places an additional burden on household budgets, and is strongly associated with socioeconomic deprivation. The aim of this study was to provide an illustrative first estimate of the extent to which parental smoking exacerbates child poverty in the UK.

Methods: Findings from the 2012 Households Below Average Income report and the 2012 Opinions and Lifestyle Survey were combined to estimate the number of children living in poor households containing smokers; the expenditure of typical smokers in these households on tobacco; and the numbers of children drawn into poverty if expenditure on smoking is subtracted from household income.

Results: 1.1 million children - almost half of all children in poverty - were estimated to be living in poverty with at least one parent who smokes; and a further 400,000 would be classed as being in poverty if parental tobacco expenditure were subtracted from household income.

Conclusions: Smoking exacerbates poverty for a large proportion of children in the UK. Tobacco control interventions which effectively enable low income smokers to quit can play an important role in reducing the financial burden of child poverty.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude
  • Child
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom