Cigarettes: a tax on the poor

Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in your own life that you assume that everyone has the same (or similar) attitudes to you when it comes to certain issues.

Cigarettes: a tax on the poor. Australia has plain packaging laws for cigarettes, so not only is there no advertising for cigarettes, but their packages look disgusting as well. Image source: theconversation.com

Cigarettes: a tax on the poor. Australia has plain packaging laws for cigarettes, so not only is there no advertising for cigarettes, but their packages look disgusting as well.
Image source: theconversation.com

Take smoking for example: One day I was talking to some of the staff at work about who smokes, and it turned out that only about 1-2% of our staff actually smoke cigarettes. And because my family and friends outside work don’t smoke at all, you could understand how I could easily form an impression that only 1-2% of the population smokes. But this simply isn’t true – in fact, the 2011-12 census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 20.4% of adult males and 16.3% of adult females were current smokers.

Once I found this out I thought a bit more about why I don’t really know any smokers, and I think I’ve worked it out – the people that I know and associate with are all in the middle to higher income demographics. It therefore stands to reason that the lower income demographics must have a higher percentage of people that smoke cigarettes, which is ironic as they are the people that are least able to afford it.

Anyway, I have long thought of smoking as a bizarre activity. The people that smoke don’t seem to enjoy it at all, they don’t seem to get anything out of it, and they don’t actually want to pay for the cigarettes. Does this sound like something else we know of? Yes, you guessed it – it sounds like a tax!




Once I came to this conclusion I linked the notions of “low income people are the only ones that smoke cigarettes” and “cigarettes are like taxes” to arrive at the conclusion that “cigarettes are a tax on the poor”. Maybe it’s a bit simplistic, but I can be like that sometimes I guess.

Now in a personal finance space, everyone knows that cigarettes are a waste of money, but if it provides motivation to change things (it certainly would for me), it may help the smokers to know that their behaviour (i.e. the smoking) potentially identifies them (with a reasonable likelihood of accuracy) as poor. Wow.

Now I’m not so materialistic that I care that much about what people think, but I think if you are still working through the painful transition away from conspicuous consumption to a more frugal lifestyle then this might be the motivation that you need – you don’t want people to assume you are poor automatically based on your smoking!

What do you think? Would knowing this make you give up smoking any more quickly?

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