Why the poor pay virtually no attention to ‘quit smoking’ campaigns

Years ago, while working on a street outreach program feeding the homeless, I observed that virtually every one of our clients was a smoker. (In fact, researchers now estimate that about 94% of the North American homeless population smoke). These are men and women whose health is already severely compromised because of their living conditions, mental health issues, addictions or disease – not to mention lack of money for smokes.

Why are they adding a known health threat like tobacco to the mix as well?

A fascinating study in the UK shed some light on that question by observing that the poorer you are, the more likely you’ll be to take up smoking, and the less likely you’ll also be to quit smoking.(1) It helps to explain the spectacular lack of success that otherwise effective anti-smoking campaigns have among lower socioeconomic populations.   Continue reading

Too many smokers are quitting on their own – so Pfizer pays doctors to plug their Nicorette gum

 To celebrate the launch of its new Ice Mint coated nicotine gum a few years ago, Pfizer Canada hired “brand ambassadors” dressed in ski suits to give out free samples in Calgary and Toronto. The company’s press release declared:

“The new formulation of Nicorette gum is another option for smokers who want to free themselves from tobacco dependence. Quitting smoking is a difficult addiction to overcome. People who quit smoking may suffer severe cravings and withdrawal symptoms; however, using Nicorette Ice Mint Coated Gum can help smokers quit by reducing nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms and significantly improve their chances to quit smoking.”

Sounds pretty straightforward, except that the pitch isn’t attributed to the Pfizer PR firm, but to a physician, Dr. Rob Weinberg  – a doctor who was paid by Pfizer for participating in drug promotion. He is a family practice physician in Toronto.  Continue reading