The way people smoke says a lot about their status, literacy and socio-economic background, according to a new study.
For example, people in poorer suburbs smoke cigarettes closer to the butt, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Otago, New Zealand, which examined smoking patterns in the suburbs.
Conversely, tailor-made cigarettes from wealthier suburbs had 75 percent more unburned tobacco than those from the poorest suburbs.
The study, the first based on cigarette butts collected from streets, was conducted by George Thomson and a team from the country's Department of Public Health.
“The aim of the study was to see whether people from different socio-economic areas smoked different amounts of tobacco in each cigarette,” said Thomson.
“In fact we did find that smokers in poorer areas smoked closer to the butt than those in wealthier areas ... Basically, poorer smokers have less money to burn.”
The researchers collected over 3,500 measurable butts from six neighbourhoods, ranging from high to low socio-economic areas.
But with roll-your-owns, the study found no major differences between urban areas, possibly because of faster breakdown of this type of butt.
Thomson said this study demonstrates that more effective and comprehensive tobacco control programmes are needed to help poorer smokers.
He also argued that when tax on tobacco is increased, extra quitting assistance should to be available to smokers wanting to stop the habit. Otherwise these addicted smokers will just try to get more nicotine out of each cigarette.
“This study is about the real world of smoking behaviour, and goes beyond just surveying smokers,” said co-author Nick Wilson.
“It demonstrates what happens out on the street as a result of tobacco price policy and economic pressures.”
The findings of the study have been published in the international journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.