Hard times prompt Americans to increase smoking

Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:30pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Stress caused by a slowing economy, shrinking retirement accounts and rising unemployment rates is driving some American smokers to increase the habit or delay quitting, according to a new survey.

A quarter of smokers who are worried about the economy said fretting over it has driven them to smoke more each day, while another 13 percent said they have delayed quitting.

"The turbulent global stock markets have caused virtually every American a certain level of stress. Those who also struggle with an addiction to tobacco products are at an increased disadvantage as they contemplate quitting, or feel the urge to smoke more cigarettes," Cheryl Healton, the president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation, said in a statement.

The Washington, D.C.-based anti-smoking advocacy group commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct the online poll of 2,375 Americans 18 years old and older.

Women smokers were more likely to smoke more due to worries about the economy, with 31 percent reporting they did, compared to 17 percent of men.

A higher percentage (38 percent) of lower-income smokers-- those with a household income of $35,000 or less -- reported that they smoke more cigarettes per day due to the economy, the survey showed.

Unemployed smokers were also more likely to boost smoking due to the financial crisis, with 29 percent smoke more compared to 17 percent of employed smokers.

Former smokers are also not immune to the trend. The survey showed that seven percent of current smokers said their anxiety about the economy had driven them to start smoking again, while nine percent of former smokers were tempted to resume the habit.

But hard times have also encouraged smokers to be more thrifty. One fifth of smokers who are stressed about the economy said they switched to a cheaper brand to save money.

(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; editing by Patricia Reaney)

<p>A cigarette lies in ashtray in front of a pub in Bensheim early July 30, 2008. REUTERS/Alex Grimm</p>