When Wealthy People Quit Smoking, Tobacco Companies Went After the Poor

“If you have a bull’s eye painted on your back, it’s harder to get away.”

Crushed cigarette

sercansamanci/Getty Images

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Poorer, less educated Americans have given up smoking much more slowly than the upper and middle classes, a report from the Washington Post found. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that while college-educated Americans reduced their smoking rate by 83 percent between 1966 and 2015, those without a high school diploma cut back by just 39 percent.

It’s not due to lack of willpower: Tobacco companies have targeted their marketing toward impoverished communities in recent years and lobbied against cigarette taxes in poor, rural states where smoking rates are highest.

Smoking rates in the U.S. by state
Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“[Poorer] communities are not protected like others are,” Robin Koval, president of Truth Initiative, told the Post. “They don’t have access to good health care and cessation programs. If you have a bull’s eye painted on your back, it’s harder to get away.”

The Post story follows Debbie Seals, who runs some of the few cessation classes available in southern Virginia and West Virginia. “People down here smoke because of the stress in their life,” she says. “They smoke because of money problems, family problems. It’s the one thing they have control over. The one thing that makes them feel better. And you want them to give that up? It’s the toughest thing in the world.”

See the full article for some illuminating charts.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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