Quitting smoking may lead to a lower risk of household food insecurity


When a tobacco user quits smoking, their household is less likely to experience food insecurity in the following year, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) published in Annals of Epidemiology.

Food insecurity and tobacco use both rank as major threats to U.S. public health, and both have an inequitable impact on low-income households and people of color. While about 10% of all U.S. households are food insecure, roughly 32% of households below the poverty line experienced some food insecurity in 2021.

Similarly, people who face social disadvantage are more likely to smoke cigarettes due to a range of factors, including aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry to low-income groups and neighborhoods with majority Black residents and uneven access to cessation resources. For instance, approximately 20% of adults with a household income under $35,000 smoke cigarettes, while in households earning over $100,000, only 6% of adults smoke.

To conduct the study, SPH researchers used data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly survey of U.S. households run by the federal government. Of the 71,278 adults studied, 82% were non-smokers, 2% were recent quitters, and 16% were continuing smokers. After adjusting for demographic characteristics and household composition, the study found:

  • Compared with those who had recently quit smoking, continuing smokers had 1.85 times the risk of household food insecurity.
  • The probability of food insecurity was 20% for continuing smokers and 11% for recent quitters.

“We aimed to explore if tobacco cessation could improve food security,” says lead author Kaitlyn Berry, a Ph.D. candidate at SPH.

“Tobacco is expensive, and it’s also addictive; in the U.S., on average, a pack of cigarettes currently costs about $8—$240 per month for a pack-a-day smoker. This means that when someone quits smoking, they can save a lot of money that could instead be used for other expenses. Our study shows that quitting smoking leads to a lower risk of household food insecurity, and it points to a new avenue for promoting food security—increasing access to evidence-based smoking cessation interventions.”

Based on their findings, the authors suggest that government and non-profit food assistance programs could make promoting cigarette-cessation strategies a component of their assistance. For instance, they could connect smokers to various interventions and treatments, like tobacco-use quit lines, cessation medications and behavioral therapy.

More information:
Kaitlyn M. Berry et al, Impact of smoking cessation on household food security, Annals of Epidemiology (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2023.01.007

Journal information:
Annals of Epidemiology

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