Smoking places a financial burden on low-income families, suggesting that parents are likely to forgo basic household and food necessities in order to fund their addiction.
“Smoking reduces the income available for families to feed, clothe and otherwise care for their children living in low-income households,” said lead author Tessa Langley from the University of Nottingham.
Smoking is an expensive habit that impoverishes millions of people around the world.
In the US, smokers spend less on housing than non-smokers and recent research in India showed that smoking cuts spending on food, education and entertainment.
“This study demonstrates that if our government, and our health services, prioritised treating smoking dependence, it could have a major effect on child poverty as well as health,” Langley added.
This new study estimates that 1.1 million children in England, almost half of all children in poverty, were living with at least one parent who smokes.
A further 400,000 would be classed as being in poverty if parental tobacco expenditure were subtracted from household income.
Although many smokers save money by opting for budget brands, the cost of their smoking is still a substantial drain on the budgets of families living on low incomes.
“The poverty threshold income level for a two parent household with two children is 392 pounds. If both parents are smokers, these households will be spending an average of 50 pounds on tobacco per week, which is a big drain on an already tight budget,” Tessa Langley said.
The findings are based on national surveys which estimate the number of children living in poverty by household structure.
The study was published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.