The News Story – Massachusetts town could be first in the U.S. to ban all tobacco sales
Policymakers have long sought ways to reduce the incidence of tobacco use, but one town in Massachusetts is considering perhaps the most drastic measure of all.
Residents of Westminster are debating a proposed ban on all nicotine and tobacco products. “But,” reports The Associated Press, “while public health groups are lauding the proposal, smokers, their advocates and shopkeepers alike are fuming.” While some residents believe that private behavior should not be legislated, others worry about the economic effects that will certainly follow if smokers begin driving elsewhere to feed their addictions. Asks one shopkeeper, “If this passes, what could be next? Sugar? Bacon?”
But research indicates that until the residents of Westminster—and the rest of the country—reconsider beliefs on marriage and family, remedies such as product bans will likely be but a partial remedy.
The New Research – Marriage vs. the Marlboro Man
For more than 40 years, a steady drumbeat of alarming medical reports has depressed tobacco consumption in the United States and elsewhere. Lower tobacco consumption can only be good news for physicians and public-health officials. But the drop in tobacco consumption might have been even sharper had recent decades not witnessed a marked retreat from marriage among young men and women in America and other Western democracies. The distinctive vulnerability of the unmarried to the blandishments of tobacco merchants stands out clearly in a new study of cigarette smoking in Canada.
The international team of American, Australian, and Canadian researchers who conducted this new study well understand the critical importance of reducing cigarette use. “Smoking is the leading cause of death in high income countries such as Canada,” they point out, noting that tobacco use constitutes “a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and cancer.” On the basis of 2005 numbers, they estimate that roughly one in five of all deaths in Canada are now due to smoking.
It is in the context of these sobering facts that the researchers scrutinize the social and geographical correlates of smoking evident in data collected in two cycles from February to June and from July to December 2010. These data indicate that marital status is a strong statistical predictor of tobacco use: the researchers report that when compared with married peers, single Canadians and widowed, divorced, and separated Canadians were almost twice as likely to smoke.
Of course, a bad habit need not mean a lifetime addiction. Smokers can quit and can dramatically improve their prospects for good health and long life by doing so. The researchers note that for smokers “quitting by age 50 can halve the lifetime risk, while quitting by age 30 can reduce the risk close to that of never smokers.”
Marital status not only predicts likelihood of smoking in the first place, but also predicts the likelihood of kicking the habit among those who have acquired it. Compared to Canadian smokers who persist in the habit, those who have quit are more than twice as likely to be married.
The researchers lament “the persistence of high rates of current smoking and low quit rates in certain geographical areas and among certain socioeconomic groups in Canada,” interpreting that persistence as evidence of “the failure of current smoking cessation policies” among such groups. They accordingly call for “further study . . . to identify . . . what interventions may improve the situation.” Their own findings make it abundantly clear that interventions that foster enduring marriages may do a great deal to curtail lethal addictions to tobacco.
(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research” The Family in America Vol 27 Number 3, Fall 2012. Study: Daniel J. Corsi et al., “Socioeconomic and Geographic Patterning of Smoking Behaviour in Canada: A Cross-Sectional Multilevel Analysis,” PLoSOne 8.2 : e57646. Web.)