AIM: Stress relief is commonly provided as a reason for smoking. However, it is plausible that the cost of smoking may create financial stress, particularly among the poor. The aim of the study was to examine the relationship between smoking and financial stress. DESIGN: Cross sectional survey of households from private dwellings conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), using a stratified multistage area sample design. SETTING: Australia, 1998-99. PARTICIPANTS: Nationally representative sample of households (n = 6892). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The outcome measures of objective financial stress were two dichotomous variables indicating whether the household had experienced any financial stress or severe financial stress in the past 12 months. RESULTS: The odds of experiencing any financial stress were 1.5 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3 to 1.7) times greater, and the odds of severe financial stress were twice (95% CI 1.6 to 2.5) as large for smoking households than non-smoking households. The effect of smoking on financial stress did not vary significantly across categories of income. Among smoking households, higher percentage of total household expenditure on tobacco was significantly related to financial stress. CONCLUSIONS: Given data were cross sectional, firm conclusions cannot be drawn about the causal relationship between smoking and financial stress. It is likely that they both affect each other. Undoubtedly, expenditure on tobacco will reduce available funds that could otherwise be used to ameliorate financial stress.
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