Poorer people are still most likely to smoke
Smoking rates may be falling - but the figures mask the high number of people in lower incomes who are still puffing away.
The Irish Cancer Society said that a special, targeted effort needs to be made in disadvantaged communities so that the health divide between the rich and poor doesn't widen.
Figures released by the HSE this week showed that the smoking rate dropped to below 20pc last year.
It is a dramatic fall from the smoking rate of 28pc in June 2003.
However, smoking rates among the socio-economic group representing the semi-skilled, the unskilled, or unemployed accounts for almost 39pc of the smoking population.
Kathleen O'Meara, the head of advocacy with the Irish Cancer Society, said that people from poorer communities are more likely to smoke and that smoking accounts for half the gap in life expectancy between a rich person and a poor person.
"Smoking has been identified as the single biggest cause of inequality in death rates. Therefore, when we see that the smoking rate is still much higher in disadvantaged areas, it indicates to us that more needs to be done to help people quit," said Ms O'Meara.
"Clearly exceptional efforts need to be made to achieve the Government's ambitious goal of a 5pc smoking rate by 2025, particularly in disadvantaged or marginalised communities," she added.
The latest figures from the HSE's national tobacco control office showed that the number of smokers dropped by 70,000 last year.
It's quit team received 769 calls from smokers in January, and nearly 50,000 visited its quit.ie website, according to the latest figures.
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