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Smoking may worsen malnutrition in developing nations
A new study finds that smokers in rural Indonesia finance their habit by dipping into the family food budget - resulting in poorer nutrition for their children. The findings suggest that the costs of smoking in the developing world go well beyond the immediate health risks, according to authors Steven Block and Patrick Webb of Tufts University.
"This suggests that 70 percent of the expenditures on tobacco products are financed by a reduction in food expenditures," the researchers write.
That decreased spending on food appears to have real nutritional consequences for children of smokers. The study found that smokers' children tend to be slightly shorter for their ages than the children of non-smokers. Height is often used by health researchers as a general barometer for nutrition in children.
The decrease in child nutrition associated with a parent who smokes is "an intuitive but rarely documented empirical finding," the researchers write.
The poorer nutrition in smoking families comes not only because they buy less food in total, but also because the food they buy tends to be of lower quality. The surveys show that, compared to non-smoking families, families with a smoker spend a larger budget share on rice and a smaller share on meats, fruits and vegetables, which are nutrient-rich, but more expensive.
"The combination of direct health threats from smoking coupled with the potential loss of [food] consumption among children linked to tobacco expenditure presents a development challenge of the highest order," the researchers conclude.
Steven A. Block and Patrick Webb, "Up in Smoke: Tobacco Use, Expenditure on Food, and Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries." Economic Development and Cultural Change 58:1
University of Chicago Press Journals 08 09
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