POV 101- Introduction to Poverty Studies and Human Capabilities
Charred Lungs of the Working-Class Marlboro Man:
Impact of Smoking on Lower Income Communities
In POV-101, we discussed the impact of several variables like education, health, environment, income etc. on low income individuals and communities. But due to time constraints, we could only discuss so many aspects of poverty. In my understanding, the most important poverty related issue we did not discuss in depth in our class is smoking and poverty. I believe that smoking is one of the most important poverty related aspects because it is one of the main factors behind a sustained state of poverty, the systematic structure of smoking oppresses low-income communities, and there are several ethical objections to how we have tried solving the problem of smoking. I will expand on how smoking exacerbates poverty by showing how an overwhelming majority of the smokers in the US are from the low-income population and how they spend a higher percentage of their income on smoking, lowering their net disposable income for other needs. I will show how smoking and exposure to smoking impacts their health and capabilities, thus exacerbating their poverty. Then I will show how the structure of smoking is oppressive by showing that the tobacco companies have exploited the poor through marketing, and the socio-political treatments of smokers fit Marion Young’s five faces of oppression theory. Furthermore, I will show that the structural difficulties of quitting smoking for the poor violate the preconditions argument Mead outlines in Welfare Reform and Political Theory. And finally, I will raise ethical and functional objections on two anti-smoking platforms US industries and local governments have undertaken, namely sin taxes and corporate non-inclusion. I will evaluate the success of sin taxes on low income households and show that they fail the consolidation objection from Stuart White and the non-inclusion policy of private entities violate Rawls’ equal basic liberties.
While the national smoking rate has fallen to historic lows in recent years, with just 15% of the adult population still smoking, cigarettes are becoming the habit of the poor. According to CDC, around 32% of the population around poverty level use tobacco. While smoking overall has decreased drastically in the last 50 years, the uneducated (some high school) have only reduced smoking at half the rate when compared to college graduates (Wan, 2017). And this disparity between smoking patterns based on socio-economic status has been widening. People living in poverty smoke for a duration of nearly twice as many years as people with a family income of three times the poverty rate. Similar patterns hold for people with high school education and college degree. People of low socio-economic status also start smoking at a younger age and smoke more heavily (CDC). And it gets worse as we go down the socio-economic...