Smoking is responsible for nearly twice as many cancer cases in lower income groups compared to higher income groups, according to new estimates by Cancer Research UK.

Over 11,000 cases of cancer were linked to smoking in the lowest income group, compared to around 6,000 in the highest.

More than 27,000 cases of cancer a year in England are associated with poverty, or deprivation, according to Cancer Research UK estimates.

People living in more deprived areas are 2.5 times more likely to smoke than those in least deprived and find it harder to quit, contributing to major health inequalities.

Experts think this is likely to be down to a mix of factors such as exposure to cigarettes, tobacco industry targeting, housing and income pressures, access to health and social care, information and education.

The study found that, of the 27,000 cases of cancer caused by deprivation, if smoking inequalities were removed and smoking rates were the same for everyone, around 5,500 of these cases could have been prevented each year in England.

Public health expert, Professor Linda Bauld, believes public health services have a vital role to play in combatting this stark inequality.

“It’s not a case of just telling people to stop smoking – going cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone. People who smoke shouldn’t be blamed but need support and the right tools to help them quit.”

She said: “Smoking has accounted for more deaths than COVID-19 in the past year. Public health and prevention services play a vital role in tackling health inequalities as well as improving health and wellbeing across England. This has come into even sharper focus since the pandemic, which has exposed where investment in these services has fallen behind.”


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