Burden of Tobacco

Some Communities and Groups Suffer More Than Others

“Thanks to the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing efforts, lower-income and less-educated populations are particularly burdened by tobacco use. Low-income people smoke more, suffer more, spend more and die more from tobacco use. The tobacco industry has gone to great lengths to target low income, racial and ethnic groups.”


The Less You Make, The More You Smoke

Low Income High SmokingBeing poor, also referred to as low income or low socioeconomic status (low SES), is the single greatest predictor that someone will become a tobacco user. This is true across the nation, as well as in Colorado. There are many factors behind this, including the fact that low SES communities are less likely to have members with access to and/or who participate in cessation programs or receive cessation advice which adequately meet the needs of this population. Not enough has been done to implement support resources for smoking cessation and prevention strategies that effectively target low SES populations and many tobacco education materials and programs are not culturally or linguistically appropriate for low SES populations. Also, individuals from low SES populations often live in communities where tobacco advertising and financial support for tobacco are prominent. These communities are more likely to be influenced by tobacco industry marketing and more likely to purchase tobacco products.

“We don’t smoke that s___. We just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black, and the stupid.”

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Executive (the makers of Camel tobacco products)
In Colorado

educationThe Colorado Tobacco Attitudes and Behaviors Survey (last data available are from 2008) show that low SES populations represent a full 60% of the population that smokes. Colorado defines low SES as people who:

  • Earn 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level (FPL)
  • Have no health insurance
  • Do not have a high-school diploma
  • Disabled and/or unable to work

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, across the nation smoking prevalence increases with decreasing education.


The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and State Tobacco Education Prevention and Cessation Grants Program direct the use of voter-approved Amendment 35 tobacco prevention funds to specifically address the excess burden of tobacco on priority populations. Comprehensive tobacco prevention and control activities which focus on the needs of low SES communities, cuts across racial and ethnic minorities and ages. With respect to health disparity-affected groups, low SES is the most inclusive group and has become a priority population for tobacco prevention, education and cessation efforts in Colorado. For more information on the issue of tobacco-related health disparities visit the following: