From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

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New research on smoking amongst Scottish youths focuses on the relationship between personal income, parental social class and the cost of smoking.

Smoking and Scottish Youths

posted on: Oct 9, 2007


New paper: Smoking in Scottish Youths: personal income, parental social class and the cost of smoking, in Tobacco Control, authors Patrick West et al.


Research on smoking amongst Scottish youths presents new findings on the relationship between personal income, parental social class and the cost of smoking.


Lead researcher, Professor Patrick West of the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said: ‘‘The West of Scotland 11 to 16 study confirmed two well known facts about young peoples' smoking habits; that those from poorer backgrounds are more likely to smoke and the more money young people have at their personal disposal, the more likely they are to smoke at any age.''


‘‘Contrary to the assumption that a child's own income reflects that of their parents, what was less expected is the finding that young people from poorer backgrounds had the most money in their pockets, and so more to potentially spend on tobacco.   The strongest relationship between the amount of money a young person had and their smoking habits was found in those from wealthier backgrounds.  Among those from poorer backgrounds there was little or no relationship''


‘‘Although we can't prove it, the explanation of these findings probably resides in differences in access to, and the actual price of, tobacco between young people from different social backgrounds.  Those from poorer backgrounds are much more likely to have parents and friends who smoke, they have more money, and they are also more likely to be living in areas where there is a cheaper source of tobacco through the illicit market.  By contrast, young people from richer backgrounds are less exposed to family and friends' smoking, have less money, and may have little choice but to obtain tobacco through legal retail outlets at a higher price.''


He concluded: ‘‘This means the retail price of tobacco might matter most for young people from richer backgrounds.  Tax increases may impact on youth smoking generally but, paradoxically, it is likely to impact more on those from richer than poorer backgrounds.  This is exactly the reverse of that found among adults and, in the long term, might increase rather than reduce health inequalities.''



Further information

If you require further information, please contact Pat West, MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, 0141 357 3949, or call the Medical Research Council press office on 020 7637 6011 or (out of hours call 07818 428 297)


Background information on the ‘West of Scotland 11 to 16 Study'

The study followed more than 2,000 young people from the age of 11 to 15 from the mid to late 1990s. At the ages of 11, 13 and 15 the participants completed a questionnaire at school that asked for details of their smoking habits and how much money they received from pocket money and any other source for example a part-time job.  Information on the participants' social background was provided by their parents.