When smoking, stress collide

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2014
Shane Mathewson
DEAN KOZANIC/FAIRFAX NZ
TOUGH SPOT : Aranui resident Shane Mathewson says smoking helps relieve stress. He lives in the suburb with most smokers in Christchurch, with one in three residents claiming to be regular smokers in the 2013 census.

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Aranui resident Shane Mathewson smokes because it relieves the stress of being poor.

New census data reveals where people are smoking in Christchurch, with far higher rates in poorer suburbs.

Aranui, Phillipstown and Bexley have the highest levels of regular smokers in Christchurch, with about one in three residents lighting up.

Mathewson, 56, has been a smoker for 47 years.

"If people haven't got money, they are sitting at home and they are stressed. You have a cigarette and it relieves the stress," he said as he smoked a Pocket Edition rolly.

"I've cut down on my smokes, but giving up is a huge thing. The adults smoke and the kids follow. If you are in an environment where people smoke and drink, the kids tend to follow."

New data from the 2013 census shows smoking rates are generally higher in suburbs with low median household incomes and a high rate of people with no qualifications.

Westmorland, Deans Bush and Mt Pleasant have the lowest smoking rates in Christchurch, with about one in 20 people stating they are regular smokers.

The highest median household income in the 10 suburbs with the most smokers is $53,100, compared with a high of $128,300 for the 10 suburbs with the least smokers.

The rate of people with no qualifications is much higher in suburbs with more smokers.

About 45 per cent of the population of Aranui, which has a smoking rate of 33 per cent, have no qualifications, compared with 10 per cent in Westmorland, which has a smoking rate of 4 per cent.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said people with no qualifications were more likely to smoke.

"People that are less well educated are more vulnerable to the promotion of products that are likely to do them harm," he said.

Poor communities were hit hard by smoking-related illnesses, including strokes, heart attacks and respiratory problems.

"It is a tremendously expensive habit for your physical health and financially as well," he said. "People may be poor to start with, but smoking makes them poorer."

The communications manager for pressure group Action on Smoking and Health, Michael Colhoun, said tobacco companies targeted poorer areas.

"Marketing is part of the reason. The concentration of outlets that sell tobacco is much higher in lower socio-economic areas and they sell cheaper brands," he said.

British American Tobacco NZ regulatory affairs manager Dawn O'Connor said it did not market to poorer areas.

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"Marketing of tobacco products is heavily restricted in New Zealand and has been for many years.

"While some of our products have a lower price point than others, we do not advertise or promote tobacco to smokers from lower socio-economic backgrounds."

- The Press

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